Blogger, Writer, Urban Adventurer
Several years ago, I placed a hydrangea plant in our front yard. I love this flower for its purple hues and it was one of the most prominent flowers used at our wedding. I knew that Houston’s heat was not kind to this plant, but I purchased it anyway. I can’t say I’ve done an awesome job of taking care of it, but somehow it has persevered, even with some neglect. When the stay-at-home orders came in March, our family, like so many others, became fixated on all of the small things around our suburban dwelling. The various birds in our oak trees, how many rolly pollies seem to live under rocks in our yard, baby lizards, the life cycle of frogs, and nurturing the hydrangea.
With some extra attention and TLC, our plant has flourished this summer, yet I have also noticed something odd. It’s one plant, planted in the same pot, with the same amount of soil, and water, not all of the blossoms are the same color. I am not just talking variations of purple. Our hydrangea has shades of purple, pink, green, and sometimes white. How? Why? Of course, this launched me into a Google deep-dive because I really have nothing better to do in our groundhog days of Covid.
Turns out, hydrangeas’ colors are a product of their environment and chemistry. They don’t really have a pigment as much as their blooms operate as litmus paper reacting to the pH and the aluminum ions in the soil (I warred you, deep-dive). For white and green, you need alkaline, for purples and pinks you need mix of acidy, and deep blues are the result of acidic soil. You can also change the color of the flowers by adjusting the pH of the soil. Add some coffee grounds for blues and eggshells for pink. I have become a bit obsessed with watching our plant grow and change.
I am also extremely cognizant that my sudden fascination with our hydrangea is no coincidence. Our 15th wedding anniversary is approaching and, to me, this is our wedding flower. The more I read, the more sure I become that hydrangeas are the perfect representation of what marriage and family life are like, especially during this unprecedented time in our lives.
We live in the same place and, in theory, are getting the same amount of love and care, and yet we all react to this shared experience in our own unique ways. Even if it seems like our circumstances are identical, they are not, as we are each pulling out different elements of this collective home life. What we absorb and internalize, whether it be contentment or turmoil, is reflected to the world through our actions and appearance. Same soil, different blossoms.
Family life is also not stagnant, especially with young children in it. We are constantly reacting to the changing world around us and how we deal with what is thrown at us has impacts, some you can see and some that stay internal.
I appreciate our multi-colored hydrangea even more now. Not just for the vibrancy it brings to our front porch, but for the lessons it has taught me. Uniformity is overrated. We all blossom a bit more when we are intentional in our care for ourselves and each other. There is no one right way to be beautiful. While you might treat each of your kids the same, they are not going to react to things the same way. They will also not react to challenges equally. While you and your partner might be rooted together, you are not meant to be exactly the same. Small changes to your behaviors can have big impacts. What you choose to take in becomes a part of who you are. You can all be part of the same family and be vastly different people. Life is in constant state of flux and change. Just because we respond to things differently, doesn’t mean one way is any better than another. We are all trying to be the best version of ourselves in the space we are in.
If that plant can live in the same pot for years and constantly find ways to stay healthy and mix it up, so can our family.