Sunday, June 19, 2016

Hydrangeas All Over Italy

Pope Gardens, Rome

I was not expecting to see so many hydrangeas in Italy. I always thought hydrangeas were common in English culture because all the members of my English family have a spot in their floral gardens just for hydrangeas. I have seen hydrangeas in Castiglion Fiorentino, Arezzo, and most recently, the Pope Gardens in Castel Gandolfo, outside Rome. This is the Pope’s summer residence. The hydrangeas were bigger than my head and produced many beautiful colors, such as pink (romance), purple (wealth), blue (frigidity), and white (purity). This made me very interested in learning more about the plant.

I discovered that hydrangeas come from the genus Hydrangeaceae, where there are twenty-three species. The flowers are native to the eastern and southern parts of Asia.  Many are shrubs, but some can grow to the size of small trees. The flowers tend to grow from the beginning of spring to the end of fall where the climate tends to have warmer summers and cooler winters. They are fascinating to look at because there are many flowers on one stem, which are called corymbs. The flowers usually start white in color and then become a different color based on the acidity of the soil.

Hydrangeas are mainly used as an ornamental plant, such as in bouquets or in gardens like my family’s gardens or the Pope Gardens in Rome. The roots can be used as medicine for urinary tract infections, bronchitis, and hay fever, while the leaves can be dried and used for tea. The colors possess different meanings. For example, the pink color in Asian tradition means “you are the beat of my heart,” while the blue hydrangeas represent turning down a romantic proposal or regret. I did not realize that the different colors represented a different meaning. Maybe I should inform my cousins to not plant blue hydrangeas all over their backyards.

Cassandra Stewart

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