The Art of Establishing Hydrangeas

Around the edge of our house, in the side garden, there rests a weatherworn fence.  And lounging against this fence you’ll find two hydrangea bushes.  They strike me as presumptuous, sprawled out with wild offshoots of different heights and leaves of varying widths spraying about everywhere, as if fighting for their space in a garden far older than their two-year old selves.

I love them in spite of their unkempt appearance, perhaps because the hydrangeas are all ours, a mark that we made on this home.  We clothed those plants in earth during our first summer here in Michigan, right after I had graduated from college.

They came to the fence squished in little pots, languidly drooping over the sides, but we just knew that with a little tender, loving care and some sunshine, they would start bursting forth blooms like popcorn.

However, the hydrangea blooms have been a long time coming.  That whole first summer they looked positively pasty, anemic even.  Year two, it was a regression—there were hardly any blooms at all… just mangy bush.  I returned home that June from a big year away, teaching writing at a college outside of Philadelphia, and I thought, “Maybe we just don’t have the right kind of soil here for hydrangeas.”  And truth be told, I was disappointed, because hydrangeas and lightning bugs are two of my favorite things in the whole, wide world.

So summer continued and there were no blooms, though there were campfires and beach trips and concerts and new friendships in this new town that I thought maybe I could call home.

Then fall came with blankets and vibrant trees and football and crisp air and snuggly dreams.

Then Christmas-time, with parties and twinkle lights and gift giving and love.

Then came winter and cold spring, laden with unending snow and barren trees and shifting into the months of difficult growing pains.

Now it is summer again, and I have arrived tired, feeling too big for my surroundings.  I’m stretching my limbs, desperate to take up some more space in this world I’m in, grappling to know who I really want to be and where that place that is mine can be found.  I don’t know those answers.  But with the expectations of August arriving, I turn to the hydrangea bushes.


The blooms are finally ready to announce themselves, even if they’re doing so tentatively.  It seems the soil wasn’t too poor, and the bushes weren’t failures— just taking their time ruminating in possibility.


Do you know why I love hydrangeas?  Because each bloom is a vibrant, speckled constellation, strung together by patient waiting and supported by some mangy, chaotic leaves.

Katy Johnson lives, dreams, writes, and edits in a messy, watercolored world.  She’s a 24 year old, discovering her hope, her longings, and the wild spaces in her own heart.  Her favorite creative project right now is called The Someday Writings, and someday, she may let those writings see the light of day.  For now, she is honored to be a part of Red Tent Living.