There was a time when I knew nothing about gardening or plants. Sure, I liked flowers, but they were a total mystery to me and as such I often killed most of them.

After years in Baltimore City, I found myself in a tiny town in Northwestern Louisiana with its lush gardens and landscapes. The growing season seemed to last an eternity compared to the Mid-Atlantic and I decided to give gardening one more try. And that is where this all began.

As a novice in a rental, I started with herbs and annuals for the small containers that would adorn my patio. I knew I wanted something that would come back each year and with that being the case I wanted to find a perennial that could withstand wintering in a container. The happy hydrangea foot the bill. It was hardy, a perennial, did well in all climates in the USA and with the right soil would bloom a true blue – my favorite color – it checked all the boxes. I purchased two.

Humble Healing Hydrangea

They bloomed pink that year and I was beyond thrilled that I’d finally managed to grow my own flowers! They bloomed pink every year in those containers until it was time to pack them up and move back to the northeast. Since I could only fit 1 in my car, I begrudgingly left its twin with a neighbor, packed it in the front seat of my car. It was strapped with the seatbelt and we traveled like that for the 1500 miles home. I waited in anticipation all winter to find that perfect spot in my parents’ yard with morning light and afternoon shade. I dreamed of big blue flowers in late summer after a dreary, cold New Jersey winter. Alas, the deer had different plans.

My poor plant didn’t bloom that entire season. Or any season thereafter. It went like this for well over ten years. Each year it would be met with some accident – a run in with the lawn mower, the puppy chewed the branches, pests, not enough water, the list was endless. I was no longer living there and there wasn’t much I could do to prevent these accidents. Somehow it managed to grow just enough each season to have foliage but no blooms and no real growth.
Then I filed for divorce.

For several years I was in and out of court for various motions, hearings and all manners of courtroom posturing.  Time and time again there was an issue, some problem, another postponement, another round of negotiations. It was as if each time I came closer to being able to move on, I was hit with another set of circumstances keeping me in an unending holding pattern. During those grueling years I lost my house and eventually declared bankruptcy. By the time it was over everything was gone.

Aside from the material loss, I’d lost peace of mind, the family I tried to create, lost faith in myself and any ounce of self-worth I’d managed to muster. I was left to start over with my son.  Over the next few years, I remarried, had a daughter and eventually purchased my parents’ home when my mother retired. It was 2019.

The Pandemic hit and once again life was upended, uncertain, hard to navigate. As I drank my coffee one spring day, I saw my hydrangea across the yard. My once so happy and beautiful bush now looking barren, alone, forgotten – left for dead – and yet it was trying to grow again.

I wasn’t going to let it languish, it was going to have a fighting chance. I took my shovel and dug it up.
It took some effort to drag the small bush on an old sheet from one side of my yard, over the concrete steps and into a spot as close to my house as possible. As I watched over it, I kept my expectations low. Surely after years of neglect and a transplant it couldn’t survive.

I watered it – daily at first, then as needed – placed coffee grounds around to acidify and fertilize the soil gently.  My hope was to bring it back to health, I never expected it to blossom so quickly or profoundly. In that first season I watched in amazement as it tripled in size and bloomed the big beautiful BLUE flowers I’d hoped for so many years ago. It was as if it knew it was loved, knew it would no longer be left to weather every storm alone. As it bloomed, I could feel some of those harsh days and stresses of lockdown fade away – as if by healing this plant I was in some way healing myself.

This humble little hydrangea, much like myself, had been through so many trials, so many hardships. It had been left to hold its own in a harsh environment it knew nothing about nor had the tools to survive in, let alone to thrive. But it was resilient, never ceasing to push out its leaves from the dirt in search of the sun; as if all this time it had been patiently waiting for my return; waiting for both of us to return to our true selves and bloom once again.