The hydrangea is the most noticeable flower growing in the South. It's in full bloom right now, and you should see the beautiful blue blooms on these bushes. The blooms can be almost as big as a volleyball, but are lightweight so they don't fall over like some larger blooms will do, such as sunflowers. My grandmother used to have hydrangeas in her yard, and she always told me that you could turn the flowers blue (if they weren't already) by putting big nails in the ground around the bushes. I thought she was pulling my leg, but now I find that it's true. I should have know; ma-ma would have never lied to me.

The hydrangea belongs to the species Hydrangea macrophylla and H. serrata, both spreading deciduous shrubs. The plants you usually see fall into two horticultural groups: The showy sphere-headed Hortensia, or mophead, type and the somewhat less-formal Lacecaps. Flower color depends primarily on the pH of the soil. Lime soils lead to pink hydrangeas, acid soils to blue; neutral soils with a pH of around 6.5 make mauve likely.

I'm told that if you put cut hydrangea blooms into a solution of two parts water and one part glycerin, the stems will pull up the glycerin while the water evaporates out and you end up with soft dried hydrangea blooms which will keep all winter.

One thing that took me by surprise was this: During the 2005 Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions, there were three so-called geniuses competing one day in March. The category was flower names and they were shown a picture of a hydrangea flower. All three of them stood there scratching their heads, failing to even attempt to name what I would consider one of the most recognizable of all American flowers.