A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Hydrangea aspera - Sharkskin & Buttered Sandpaper
Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Often when I photograph male lawyers, politicians and businessmen I am asked by their handlers what they should wear. Since we are now firmly esconced in the 21st century the days of taking pictures of energy executives looking into the future are gone. We want to see their eyes. Can we trust them now? Gone are the days of using low camera angles to make them look more powerful or the use of blue backlights to denote high technology. I tell their handlers to clothe them in textured suits with warm fall colours. I tell them to avoid white shirts (they compete too much with their white faces) and suggest blue shirts. I sometimes tell them to stay away from shiny black suits, specially sharkskin suits.

This morning as I made the rounds of the garden I looked at my Hydrangea asperas. I have three kinds, Hyddrangea aspera, Hydrangea aspera 'Villosa' and Hydrangea aspera ssp. sargentina. All three are similar except the straight Hydrangea aspera has narrower leaves. The leaves of the sargentiana tend to get larger after some years. I have seen a specimen in VanDusen whose leaves have rounded out and are 9 by 11 inches. The one here, a leaf from a Hydrangea aspera ssp. sargentiana is 10 inches long.

All three kinds have large lacecap flowers and visitors to my garden always ask, "What is that?" as if they have just spotted a visitor from Mars. I always ask them to touch the leaves and tell them, "It's exactly like sharkskin."

Not too many British know that their fish and chips sometimes is made from the dogfish. A dogfish, (loosely appled to three families Scyliorhinidae, Dalatiidae and Squalidae). Mexicans are less secretive about dogfish or cazó. I often saw them in fish markets. One time I asked the vendor to let me touch one.

Aspera leaves are exactly like sharkskin. I would describe the feel as buttered sandpaper. It is rough but somehow, smoothly rough. I can understand that a fast swimming shark could give a human skin burns by just passing by.

Visitors to my garden, after touching the aspera leaves look at the plant with and almost fearful respect. I love my hydranges but I specially love my asperas. They thrive in all but absolute shade (they need water, though) and they have no pests or diseases.


More hydrangeas

and more hydrangeas

and even more

and just one more


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