At times, I have found that people can be afraid to show their true colors, intimidated by presenting the authentic version of themselves to the world. Perhaps they are concerned whether they will be accepted or too nervous about putting themselves out there. Sometimes it can seem easier to hide who we truly are to stay within the “norm.” I am not excluded from these moments, as I tend to be a “don’t rock the boat” personality type. On many occasions, I have been too timid to show my true self, step up, and speak out and be heard among all the other voices. As humans, we often fear many things in life, but being who we are shouldn’t be one of them.
My garden, the ever-present teacher, shows me that I shouldn’t be apprehensive about presenting my true self. Hydrangea blooms, especially those of the bigleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla), are not afraid to show their true colors, and perhaps that is why I love and admire them. These hydrangeas’ flowers go through transformations, changing colors from the time they first open until they are spent. In most hydrangea species, the flowers are white, but in H. macrophylla, their large pom-pom or mophead like flowers can be pink, red, purple, blue, or any shade in between. Their environment and maturity can also influence their color. In the environment, the availability of aluminum ions based on soil pH can bring about the floral color change. Acidic soils (pH below 7) typically produce blue to purple blooms, whereas alkaline soils (pH above 7) will produce pink or red flowers. How fascinating!
In 2004, I planted my first bigleaf hydrangea, a Nikko Blue specimen, which went through this fantastic soil-based color change. When purchased from the nursery, growing in a neutral pH potting soil, it had pink flowers. However, since being planted in my garden, to my delight, the flowers are blue. My soil tends to be on the acidic side, which incidentally also helps my blueberry crop.
As humans, we, too, can be influenced by our environment. It can shape us and play a role in determining who we are as a person. Our environments can positively or negatively affect us each time a new factor is introduced, bringing about different layers to who we become. Factors such as family, friends, location, or even starting a new job all add to the story of us. Regardless of whether these factors affect us negatively or positively, they are essential in molding who we are.
My hydrangea’s magnificent blooms unapologetically change their color as they mature, always opening a brilliant blue and, throughout the season, transform to lavender, mauve, and even mint green. As fall is escorted in, their final color change culminates into a delicate yet beautiful, beige, which blends into it’s surroundings.
We, too, should be unapologetic about the changes that we undergo as we mature. A few grey hairs atop my head only add to my sparkle, and those crow’s feet and laugh lines represent years of smiles and laughter, all badges I should wear proudly. Topics that I found valuable in my youth may no longer be a priority. I may accumulate new values as I age and enter different stages of my life. Milestones such as graduating from college, getting married, and becoming a parent, all add new layers to who I am. I learn that my true self can change and transform, just as the blooms on the hydrangea. I must accept that all stages are equally beautiful and meaningful, collectively making up my life. I must welcome the idea that I am allowed to change and that my true self can transform over the years.
I’m still working on this acceptance and on having the courage always to be true to myself. I look to the flowers of my hydrangea for bravery. They are not afraid to change, show their beauty in all stages of their life, and embrace or navigate their environment’s influences. They proudly display their true colors, as I too strive to do.