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Thursday Snapshot: Ajisai (Hydrangea) in Bloom

Ajisai (hydrangea) making its little fist of joy.
Tsuyu (rainy season) is very nearly defined by this lovely bloom. A native plant of Japan and Asia in general, hydrangea have never been a favorite of mine. Frankly, I always thought they looked rather stupid. I couldn't understand the fuss over these basketball size blossoms that had no character or charm.

Even after moving to Japan I'd somehow managed to remain indifferent to these flowers, smiling and making the appropriate noises when others pointed them out to me. They were more interesting, but still a bit dumb, I thought while swatting mosquitoes as my companion would gesticulate enthusiastically at the blooms.

But it wasn't until hiking in Daisetsuzan Koen that I fell in love.

Lace cap hydrangea during a recent mountain hike.
We were hiking next to a small stream, winding our way through a narrow canyon when I happened to look up. There, high in the rock wall above me, I saw a round blue ball of flowers, its stem gracefully reaching up and out to the light, emerald green leaves filled with sunlight. It was then I understood that this was a native plant, not some lame ornamental trophy specimen. I took a photo, which turned out badly, before continuing on.

Now, of course, I can't stop taking their picture. I find them beautiful in all stages, but especially as they fade. There is something particular graceful about those flowers tinged with brown, the color dripping away until the blossoms stand dried on the stems, little treasures to be discovered on a winter hike.

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