The Story of the Hearty Hydrangea

I love hydrangeas. I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that the color of the blooms depends upon the soil. American Scientist has an article about hydrangeas that is well worth reading, in my humble opinion.

Curious Chemistry Guides – Hydrangea Colors

Here, you’ll learn a few interesting facts about these beautiful blooms, which — according to American Scientist — are not really flowers at all.

For starters, the bloom of the hydrangea is not a true flower, but an inflorescence: Sepals, or modified leaves, make up most of the bloom and overshadow the small, almost unnoticeable fertile floral portions at the center.

I didn’t know that… did you?

Now, about all those gorgeous colors.

The bloom colors are what really make the hydrangea stand out: They range from pink to blue, including all shades of lavender to violet to purple, as well as green and white. Color intensities run the gamut from vibrant to pastel. Noticeably absent from the kaleidoscope of possible hydrangea colors are yellows and oranges.

This, I knew, and I knew, too, that it’s because of the pH levels of the soil — how acidic or alkaline the soil is. Turning once more to American Scientist:

…the color of many hydrangea blooms acts as a natural pH indicator for the soil in which the plant grows. Such blooms have blue sepals when the shrub grows in acidic soil, but develop red or pink sepals when grown in neutral to basic soils.

There is, however, a bit more to it than that! Here’s a short video (under 2 minutes) that explains:

Now that I’ve shared a bit of science, let’s get back to art. Maybe you remember last summer when I drew and painted a bowl of hydrangea leaves.

I mentioned then that we had planted a hydrangea in our yard, but sad to say, my husband mowed over it, not once, but repeatedly. The poor thing never got a chance to grow. I wasn’t too concerned, though. We’re regular contributors to the Arbor Day Foundation and they’d offered a free hydrangea as a gift for a donation. But something went wrong apparently. Maybe they ran out of stock. We never received our hydrangea. Since this involved a charitable donation, I wasn’t about to make a fuss over it. We appreciate the Arbor Day Foundation and are grateful for the work they do. But, once again, it seemed that hydrangeas were simply not meant to be part of our landscaping life.

A few days ago, my husband returned home from a morning errand and told me to “Come quick! The hydrangea is blooming!” I was on to his tricks. No, honey bunny, that hydrangea you mowed over has not come back to life. “Oh, did you buy a new one?” I asked. Yes, exactly. In fact, he bought two new hydrangeas, and we’re putting them closer to the house where they will be safely out of reach when he’s mowing. We’re both hoping these hydrangeas live long and healthy lives.

Meanwhile, “hearty hydrangea” came up as a prompt for the next-to-the-last day of the 15-Day Floral Challenge I did last month. I tried. I really did. In the end, however, my “hearty hydrangea” looked sadly misshapen, as do so many of my flowers, blossoms, and blooms.

I think it’s obvious that I just wasn’t feeling it when I tried to draw this blue hydrangea bloom. Even the awkward placement on the page is off. I was using oil pastels and wasn’t sure how to get the delicate look I wanted, but at least I did have a little fun playing with a few different blues and doing a little blending.

To finish it off, I quickly added a stem with two leaves, then brushed on a sunny yellow background with watercolor. It could be better, but I suppose it could also be worse, and since I’ve just celebrated my seventh anniversary of drawing, I can nod my head and say, “Well, seven years ago, I couldn’t have done this.”

It seems that hydrangeas just have a hard time around our house. Whether in our yard or in my art studio, they don’t seem to fare very well. But I still love them, and I still want to draw them and paint them. I’m doing a lot of flowers this year, and all right, yes, we’ve learned now that hydrangea blooms aren’t true flowers, but that’s beside the point. I still want to draw them. I still want to paint them. So, be watching for more to come!

And with a little luck, maybe we’ll have hydrangeas blooming in our yard!




  1. I love Hydrangeas, too, and have so many including oak leaved, variegated and red and black stemmed ones. I have various shades of pinks, blues and whites and some of the plume shaped Paniculata ones both in white and in lemon and lime. The odd Hydrangea doesn’t mind sun all day but most like only morning sun or dappled light and they need to be planted in a moist place. They are very easy to propagate. I take lots of cuttings every year and give them away. Thanks for spreading the word about this lovely plant.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I once had a garden condo with a patio on the north side of the unit. Against the exterior wall grew a large hydrangea that I was honored to care for for five years. I have no particular skill for gardening, so I was thankful that someone had planted it before I arrived. Thank you for this post’s reflection, its art, and its evocative effect.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, that must have been gorgeous. 🙂 I hope our new hydrangeas make it. We’ve tried several times to get lilacs growing, but we just don’t have any luck with that, at all. 😦


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