Hydrangea’s were first discovered in Japan where they are known as Ajisai, The flower has a long history in Japanese culture they appeared in poems of the Nara period (710-794). Under Samurai rule, they were considered a symbol of moral infidelity. The military was trained to be loyal to the Shogun and associated the changeability of the hydrangea with betrayal. In art and poetry, the flower came to represent fickleness and a changing heart.
The Japanese make a sweet tea from the fermented leaves of the Hydrangea called ‘amacha’, the name derives from the Japanese characters for sweet and tea. This tea contains phyllodulcin, a sweetener 400–800 times sweeter than table sugar! (But beware hydrangeas can be poisonous they contain cyanogenic glycoside! I would leave the tea making to the Japanese!) This tea is often used in ceremonies celebrating Buddha’s Birthday, they pour amacha on small Buddha statues decorated with flowers.
In Greek Mythology, the name hydrangea is derived from the word hydros and angos. ‘hydros’ meaning water and ‘angos’ meaning jar or vessel- together they refer to a ‘water barrel’ and anyone who grows hydrangeas know they are thirsty plants! In Japan they are an iconic flower of the rainy season.
Hortensia is an old-fashioned common name for Hydrangea. It is also the French and the Spanish word for hydrangea. It can also be traced to the common French name Hortense, which in Latin means ‘gardener’ or ‘of the garden’.
The hydrangea represents gratitude, grace and beauty. It also radiates abundance because of the lavish number of flowers and the generous round shape. Its colours symbolise love, harmony and peace, but it is also said that English men in the 1800s sent hydrangeas to women who rejected them, accusing them of frigidity! based on the ability of the plant to produce many flowers but very few seeds!
Follow My Painting journey!
Get new content delivered directly to your inbox.