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“We rode for some time within hearing of the Kinugawa River with an undergrowth of red azaleas, blue hydrangea the very blue of heaven, yellow raspberries, ferns. The redundancy of the vegetation was truly tropical, and the brilliancy and variety of its living greens, dripping with recent rain, were enhanced by the slant rays of the afternoon sun.”

From “Unbeaten Tracks in Japan”by Isabella Bird, 1878 (Virago Press)

As the long rains begin to fall, Japan’s hydrangea raise their lovely heads. Although the plant appears to be ignored in classical literature, it is now a favorite symbol of the rainy season. No doubt the intrepid traveler Isabella Bird first saw the Oriental species of Hydrangea macrophylla at home in Britain, as they were popular garden shrubs in Victorian times.