The Love of Hydrangeas

Posted by Margaret Resendes Peek on

 If you could peek into the heart of an Açorean, you'd see love and passion for so many things. I've noted the main ones here, and by no means are they in order of importance. The heart of the Açorean contains love for family, friends, spiritual practices, their birth island, food, fun, and the hortênsia (hydrangea). Yes, that list ended with a flower. Please read on to learn more about the magical islands' magical flower.
Photo Credit to Jose Fin
Every summer, the Açores become awash in pillowy, colorful hydrangeas. The bushes, which bloom in shades of blue, pink, purple, and white, have become the national flower and an unofficial symbol of the islands. Historians say that these beautiful flowers were introduced to the islands centuries ago by Portuguese explorers and missionaries. It is also said that these gorgeous flowers were so invasive and growing so wild that it resulted in the devastation of a great deal of the endemic flora of the region. Regardless of their origin or spirited growth, it is undeniable that they're beloved to Açoreans. For residents of the Açores, they're a source of pride, joy and are passionately protected. For Açoreans who have immigrated to other parts of the world, the love for the hydrangea is carried in their hearts wherever they go.
While all the Açores islands are populated with hydrangeas, there's one island nicknamed for the abundance of these lush flowers-Faial otherwise known as the Isla Azul (blue island). It's aptly nicknamed that because of the countless hydrangea hedges found everywhere on this island. Interestingly, all the islands are volcanic, but Faial's unique soil conditions make it the best destination for the most brilliant blue hydrangeas. For those who don't visit Faial, the opportunity to see stunning hydrangeas in all colors is on any of the Açores islands. These flowers are not only beautiful to look at, but the hydrangea is interesting.
                                       Photo Credit to Sonny Sixteen                                                                                                                            
Here are some facts about the hydrangea you may not know.                                
                                                                                                                                 1.  In the wild, hydrangea plants can grow over 30 feet high and grow into thickets. Such is the case in the Açores. 
2. . They're found growing all over the world.     
3. While they're beautiful to the eyes, the petals and stalks are toxic.                          
4. Historians say that the hydrangea originated in Japan.       
5. Hydrangeas are water lovers and can be planted in areas where it gets hot so long as they're generously hydrated.       
6. The color of the hydrangea's bloom isn't determined by seed but rather by the soil's acid and mineral content.                                                                                             
7. Hydrangeas produce their central flower cluster from the shoots' tips formed from the plant's previous season.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  
8. The Avantgarde is a unique long flowering hydrangea known to produce the world's most enormous blooms. Most of this plant's flowers exceed 12 inches in diameter!                                                                                                                      
9. In the hydrangea's most original form, the Asian varieties are known for their color, but it's the American ones that are known for their fragrance. Hydrangea enthusiasts say that the leader of these gorgeously scented beauties is the Oakleaf hydrangea.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                
10. There are more than 75 species of hydrangeas. The Açorean variety is known as the macrophylla.                                                                                                             
11. The hydrangea macrophylla is a species of the flowering plant in the family of the hydrangeacea which is native to Japan. Common names for it include Bigleaf hydrangea, French hydrangea, Lacecap hydrangea, Mophead hydrangea, Penny Mac and Hortensia. But experts warn that this isn't to be confused with the H. aspera Macrophylla. Why I'm not sure, but apparently, among this flower's enthusiasts, that's a common error.                                                                                        
12. The macrophylla hydrangea has an inflorence (fancy name for complete flower head) that's a corymb. A plant with that style means that the flowers grow in such a fashion that the outermost are borne on longer stalks than the inner, bringing all flowers up to a common level. This explains the awe-inspiring effect that uncultivated hydrangeas have on people visiting the Açores. Many a picture includes hydrangea-lined lanes and naturally fenced pastures, giving the impression that their beauty had to be the work of a team of gardeners. But mother nature is the hydrangea's garden.                                                                     
Perhaps it's that natural beauty that makes this flower an Açorean icon. This group of islands has faced centuries of natural and human-made hardships. Yet despite that, the islands have remained beautiful, solidly rooted in their history, and bravely facing whatever comes next. For the Açorean, that's life and it's only fitting that a flower such as the hydrangea serves as a reminder of such a life.
Shop at for the Hydrangea Trivet and other exclusive hydrangea themed items.  


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