What do hydrangeas and short stories have in common? I’m writing two stories this month, while I wait for my five hydrangea bushes to bloom. Will the plot, setting, and memorable characters of my stories lead to satisfying endings? Will the hydrangeas amaze and delight me when they bloom?
“Big Daddy” and “Lemon Daddy,” are two macrophylla hydrangeas that only bloom one year in three, their huge pink balloon-sized blossoms contrasting with vivid yellow-green foliage. I named a memorable short story character “Big Daddy”; he, too, was unpredictable and problematic, but deliciously diabolical.
I fell in love with blue hydrangeas during childhood visits to Cape Cod, their bright sapphire balls of tiny flowers contrasting with orange haploid daylilies against the gray-shingled houses, thriving in the salt air and acid soil. When we moved in Cincinnati, I mapped the sun patterns in the yard, seeking a suitable location for hydrangeas with morning sun and afternoon shade. The “Endless Summer” variety, introduced in 2004, was deemed hardy enough to survive harsh Midwestern winters and hot, humid, summers. I learned that hydrangea flowers and leaves can make a dog sick, if ingested. My standard poodles are more interested in snacking on coneflowers, basil, and tarragon.
The stories are progressing, with settings, characters, and inciting incidents determined. As I write, I discover motive and outcome. While in research mode for a historical story, I learned that Joseph Banks brought the first hydrangeas from China to England in 1790. Hydrangeas were introduced to the United States during the 1820’s. In the past ten years, a huge number of re-blooming varieties have become available--whites, pinks, and purples--in addition to the traditional blue.
My hydrangeas, carefully mulched with pine straw, survived the winter, with buds on both last year’s wood and this year’s, their leaves unfurling in the spring sunshine. I see evidence of blooms on the “Endless Summer” varieties, tiny pinpoints of light green, but alas, nothing on “Big Daddy” and his cousin “Lemon Daddy.”
Will my stories be successful, or doomed to live perpetually in a state of submission, or lie forgotten in a drawer?
As summer approaches, are you anxiously waiting to see what blooms in your garden?