Plants and Pop Culture: Hydrangea macrophylla

Oct 19, 2017 | Lifestuff

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been concerned that plants and gardening seem to be completely ignored by popular culture. Is it because the greenery is getting buried in a rain of digital devices? Is the garden getting dissed as being a place only for “girls and gays?” (No, I’m not afraid to say it.) Or perhaps since no one makes millions in horticulture, it just doesn’t capture the public’s imagination anymore. I can’t say one way or the other.

So I decided that instead of succumbing to this slip into obscurity, I should go right to the source and see what the plants themselves think about this trend. Last week I interviewed the Franklinia tree. In this post I pose the same question to Hydrangea macrophylla.

CL:  So, Hydrangea macrophylla, you can understand my concern, right? Why are plants and horticulture being ignored in the world of pop culture?

Hm: Before we start to get serious, could you perhaps offer me a drink? Do you have a couple bottles of water? Or a bucket maybe?

CL: After the interview I’d be happy to drag out the hose. You don’t need spring water or anything, do you?

Hm: No. Any clean water will do. I’m so thirsty! You have to take the “hydra” part of my name seriously, you know.

CL: So I’ve heard. But back to my original question about plants and popular culture…

Hm: Well, one of the main problems is that Homo sapiens are such control freaks.

CL: I can’t deny that…

Hm: I hear people constantly fussing about what makes me bloom, why I don’t bloom, and what color my flowers are going to be. And the whackadoodle theories they come up with are amazing! They want to stick rusty nails, nickels, or other debris around my roots. They want to pour chemicals and huge amounts of fertilizer in my soil. But do they want to work with the plants and nature, so that everyone’s happy? No! Do they ask Soil or Weather or Earthworm what they think? Of course not. Humans are only interested in what they want.

CL: I understand what you’re saying. But how does being a control freak about color and flowering relate to how plants are viewed by society at large?

Hm: Here’s the thing. I find that more and more, you humans want to be in control. And if you don’t understand something, or if it doesn’t come easily, you are on to the next gadget, website or supplement that promises an instant fix. How can a plant compete with that? Even one like myself that has huge, outrageous flowers has a tough time in the land of instant coffee and one-click solutions.

CL:  You do have huge numbers of admirers you know. There’s an entire Hydrangea Happiness Facebook group, and on Cape Cod we’ve named our ten-day festival of open gardens after you.

Hm: Well that’s good to know, and don’t think we aren’t appreciative, dear. But when it comes to your species’ popular culture I’m afraid that you’ll have to look elsewhere. We Hydrangea macrophylla have gone above and beyond when it comes to showy, long lasting flowers but people are still not satisfied, not that we’re complaining. You’ll just have to be content with what we’re able to provide and move on. Why don’t you ask the tomato? When it comes to popularity, Solanum lycopersicum is truly a part of the in crowd.

Now…about that drink of water. I’m really thirsty…

For those who have a hard time telling fact from fiction, and lest I be accused of cranking out fake news, be assured that this conversation was completely of my invention. Should Hydrangea macrophylla begin speaking in language that people understand, I’m sure they will be far more articulate than I’ve imagined here.

This was Part 2 in Plants and Pop Culture: The Interviews. 



  1. Pat Patterson

    Thanks for understanding one of my favorite shrubs. Yes, they are a thirsty lot, but water is cheap. What if they demanded liqueurs or champagne?

  2. Vianna Heath

    Keep watering? even though the season is going into mid-to late Autumn? I still have plenty of flowers, but the “guy” came and turned off the watering system. I noted that the hydrangea were wilted, that I’d have to “haul out the hose”. He said “don’t bother, that’s what they do at time of year”. Looking at them so obviously crying for water, I feel guilty not watering…what to do? what to do?!
    I was at your talk in West Barnstable recently, you’re so encouraging and helpful. Thank you.

    • CL Fornari

      Since he’s a plumber, not a plant person, he’s not taking into consideration the following: your blue hydrangeas have buds right now that will be the flowers next summer. They are where the current leaves meet the stems – you should be able to see them. If these dry up at this time of year, you lose flowers for next year. So it’s prudent when we’re in a time like now when the days are sunny and warm, and it hasn’t rained in a week, to water those plants once a week as long as it’s still so warm. Yes, these plants will be losing their leaves soon, but if a hydrangea is wilting now it’s dry, and that will influence next year’s performance.


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