Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Surrender the Pink!

Pink Hydrangea
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
This hydrangea played a role in persuading us to make a bid on our house. Apparently, it is one of the finest specimens among the many fine specimens to be found here in Portland. I discovered this the first summer we moved here. I answered the doorbell one day and there stood a Latino man. He wanted to know if he could have some of my hydrangeas. Never before in my life have complete strangers come to my door asking if they could have some of my flowers. I was caught off guard, so I just sort of stammered, “no.” He said “thank you” anyway and skedaddled.

A few weeks later, another Latino man came to the door wanting some of my hydrangeas. Again—I was totally nonplussed. After refusing the previous guy and feeling that I had behaved churlishly, I asked this guy how many he wanted. I was prepared to honor his request as long as it was modest. Somewhere between his asking and my asking him “how many,” there was a communication breakdown. He left without taking any.

Spanish-speaking men, women, and children continue to ring our doorbell at least a dozen times each summer, asking for hydrangeas. I feel a bit bad about this, but after that “how many” debacle, I’ve always just said “no” when they ask. Seriously, though, if I let everyone who asked have some, my hydrangea would be a pathetic, bald-headed thing. I have absolutely no idea why people want them. Is it just for bouquets? Do they want to take cuttings? Do hydrangeas have some sort of special festival-related significance in the Spanish-speaking community? I’ve asked other hydrangea owners if they’ve ever had hydrangea supplicants at their door and no one I’ve asked so far ever has. I’d love to know more about this siren song my pink hydrangea apparently sings (presumably in Spanish).

That siren song's days may be numbered, as I’m currently attempting to turn the hydrangea blue,* a color I much prefer to pink. If my experiment succeeds, it will be interesting to see whether the blooms are still in demand. If not, I can infer that it was their pinkness (slightly [but only slightly] less common than blue here in the Pacific Northwest, where the soil tends to be acidic) that emboldened the folks to knock on my door. Or, alternatively, by the time they turn blue (next year at the earliest), word will have circulated among the hydrangea-requisitioning community that I am one cold-hearted dame who will never--not ever in a million years--part with one of her precious hydrangea blooms.

*Here’s the deal with hydrangea color: acid soils yield blue blooms; alkaline soils yield pink blooms. By widgeting around with the soil pH, you can (supposedly) change the color of your hydrangeas. I’ve applied some elemental sulfur to the soil, which is supposed to blue them up and is purportedly less likely to assassinate the hydrangea than the old stand-by, aluminum sulphate.


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