Friday, October 28, 2011

The pursuit of the purple hydrangea

I'm not the only one who had noticed it.

For years, I've watched a hydrangea bush at the corner of U.S. Highway 29 that runs through my hometown and the street that led to where my grammar school had been until it was torn down and a senior center built in its place.  The hydrangea was covered in blue blooms in late May-early June.  Unlike the flowers of some mopheads, these did not turn brown, but faded to different colors, and consistently ended up an unusual grape/maroon in late fall. 

The bush in question stands next to a former country store at the the intersection where I spent a lot of time in the seventh grade.  Back in the 1950's, the AAA automobile club sponsored what was known as the school safety patrol.  I think we got inducted at the end of the sixth grade.  I can still feel the thrill of finally getting to put on the coveted white belt contraption that went around your waist and over one shoulder.  You had a police looking badge pinned onto it right above the heart.  
We would stand in the middle of the highway next to this store so that children could cross.  I think they now have more responsible adults with hand-held stop signs to do this sort of thing. 

I've digressed here;  back to the hydrangea. Last year, I watched in horror as a local TV news station covered a water main break at the intersection.  I could see the hydrangea in the background.  I was praying the workers wouldn't harm it.  The next time I was down there, I was relieved to see it was still intact.

 I mentioned the hydrangea on Facebook recently, and immediately two friends named Karen responded.  They knew the plant, too.  One said she'd drop everything and drive over there.  The other Karen said, she'd try to find the lady, as well.  This was a courageous thing to do because we didn't know exactly who lived in the old store.  

Karen #1 knocked at the back door, and a friendly 85-year-old woman explained that she had moved the shrub from Atlanta some 30 years ago.  Without hesitation, she gave permission for me to layer it (notice I made Karen do the hard part, making this request on my behalf).  While Karen #1 was talking to the lady, Karen #2 drove up.

So, last weekend, I went to my hometown, took some bricks, pulled down several branches - some woody, some soft - and made a scratch on the stems with my clippers.  I then made a slight hole in the earth, put the scraped branches down and put a brick on top.  I tried to do it so it wouldn't be very noticeable.  

I will give you a report next spring.  Here's hoping we'll have six new plants.  Meanwhile, I need to catch the woman at home to show her what I have done.  Maybe we've discovered a new variety - Hydrangea 'Turner Avenue'.   No.  That isn't right.  It should be called Hydrangea 'Gail Walker', as she is the person who brought it here in the first place.