Brittany’s Hydrangeas (les hortensias in French)—Gardener’s Delight
(un hortensia in French)
Bold, Bright, Beautiful
Gardens in France, whether private or in parks, are gorgeous, always with masses of flowers of all kinds. We discovered that French gardeners are fanatic about many types of flowers (such as roses and dahlias), but especially hydrangeas. Hydrangeas do well in gardens all over France (especially in Normandy and Brittany), and florists sell them as potted plants all year round.
We’d read this, so were expecting to see hydrangeas on our recent trip to Brittany, but were not expecting to see such an abundance of glorious blooms and, often, such huge bushes. And we were very surprised to see the amazing range in color palette everywhere—all shades of blue, purple, deep rose reds, pink, and even white. These differing colors depend upon specific chemicals that each hydrangea plant finds in the surrounding soil (how acid or alkaline), and gardeners often try to change this with different hydrangea fertilizers.
In people’s gardens, in public parks and gardens, a bright burst of color greets your eyes. These flowering shrubs have become an informal emblem/icon of Brittany, and we saw Hortensia calendars, with differing views of lovely flower heads or banks of flowers, plus postcards, books, decorated plates etc.
We were there in early July and were told that, as the peak of the rose season approaches, then the hydrangeas take over as prime garden flowering shrubs. The plants are valued because the flowers slowly age and deepen in color rather than outright wilt. Another plus is that these shrubs are seldom straggly and always fully covered with foliage, right down to the ground.
There are two main varieties: a Mophead variety (Hydrangea macrophylla), and a Lacecap variety (Hydrangea macrophylla normalis).
Here’s a small visual sample of hortensias that we saw. Enjoy.