(photo credit: Heather Palmer)

This week has been a dreary one here in southeastern Wisconsin…and for more reasons than one. The rain hasn’t let up much here this week (I learned last night while watching the weather report that some nearby areas have received in excess of 5″ since Sunday!) and this afternoon has been the first that I’ve seen the sun for more than a half hour since Monday. However, the weather has matched the mood as I lost my grandma on Tuesday after a long fight with Parkinson’s.

Needless to say, the last few days have been quite reflective for me. In thinking about my grandma, I’m reminded of her laugh, her great breakfasts while visiting the cottage every summer, the fishing poles we used as kids to rescue items from her birdbath, our large consumption of popsicles while watching The Wizard of Oz for the billionth time at her house, and countless other things. While traveling down memory lane, I recalled the house my grandpa and grandma purchased later in life on a lake. When I think of this house and the good times spent there, one aspect of it always comes to the forefront of my mind: Annabelle Hydrangeas. Along the front of their modest lake home, the hydrangeas spread with blooms so large atop their stems they would sometimes bend over under the weight of them. Being no more than ten years old at the time, my love affair with plants had only just begun. Therefore, I was completely oblivious to the name or type of plant these were. All I knew was that my grandma LOVED them and therefore, so did I.

Annabelle Hydrangea

My grandma was a smart lady in many ways and her love of hydrangeas was no exception. Hydrangeas are one of the easiest, more versatile, shrubs to grow in somewhat cooler climates of the mid and upper parts of the country, coming in a variety of colors and “cultivars” (different cultivated varieties for color, height, and habit). Most varieties top out at about 3-4′ in height and width. They can be easily recognized by their large, spherical or panicular-type clusters of flowers which bloom from mid-summer to early fall. Hydrangea flowers also make great additions to fresh, as well as dry floral arrangements. For a neat and tidy appearance, hydrangeas can be cut back within 6″ of the ground (rejuvenate pruning) in late fall or early spring. Hydrangeas can be planted in the spring or fall. However, if you are planting them during the fall season, be sure to choose one of adequate size (I would recommend a 3 gallon pot or larger) so that the root system is adequate enough to handle the cold winter temperatures.

I find it interesting that this should have such an impact on me so shortly after writing my post about The Violets of March book in which I talked about the memories that can be sparked by a part of nature. So I’m curious to know: what flower or plant brings back a memory for you?