As we walk to the nearest train station we usually cut down a small, narrow backstreet that runs roughly parallel to the main road. A wide variety of single family homes, apartments, and condos line both sides. A handful of the single family homes are older, one-story structures built in a traditional style. The accompanying yards are a delight to the eye - hydrangea, hollyhock, fruit trees, and an assortment of unidentified flowers and plants - and presumably fed the household at one time or another. It's remarkable to see how much greenery is packed into a very small growing space.
One of these older homes always has something in bloom or fruit that catches my eye. In the spring it was an orange tree, hydrangea during the rainy season, with the last and most interesting of those finishing its blooms just now. (See pictures below.) Tiers of potted plants line the walk to the door, and a small porch holds pot after pot of succulents and cactus. I occasionally see an older woman out watering, but I haven't gotten up the gumption to say more than hello.
Hydrangea, as I mentioned earlier, are a new love of mine. A woodland shrub native to Japan, hydrangea here are some of the most amazing and spectacular flowers I've ever seen. (And let me just say there are no shortage of amazing and spectacular flowers in Japan!) Even as they fade, the blooms remain beautiful. May I age so gracefully.
This recent article from Fine Gardening offered some enlightening information about hydrangeas, although I DO NOT advocate use of artificial fertlizers. Please ignore that section of the article. The rest, though, offers an outline of the types, bloom color, pruning, and winter protection.