Water Vessels of Martha’s Vineyard

Martha’s Vineyard is known for its hydrangeas. They are something of a tradition all over the Cape and Islands. In fact, I have even read articles about which island has the better hydrangeas—The Vineyard or Nantucket? Isn’t that ridiculous? I mean the answer is so obvious. So, could it be more appropriate that the name for our floral symbol is derived from the greek “hydra” meaning water and “angeion” meaning vessel? For an island steeped in water-faring tradition, I can’t think of anything more well-suited.

Edgartown Blue

There is an unusually wide variety of hydrangeas and not just in colour. Originally from Asia, the  genus of hydrangea with which we are most familiar is deciduous, but there are evergreen hydrangeas. Hydrangeas grow on shrubs, trees, and vines. Their large, snowball-like flowers make them both dramatic and gentle all at the same time.

I’m not sure whether my love for hydrangeas stems from my love for The Vineyard or whether it bloomed in an entirely different part of my brain, but bloom it did. When they are in season, I am almost obsessed with them. They fill my house. I can never decide which colour is my favourite so I always end up with vases and pots of all colours—pink, blue, green, and white. I tend to prefer my pinks pale and my blues deep. “Edgartown Blue” is a term that I hear thrown around The Vineyard quite a bit and rightfully so. I hadn’t given it much thought, but the hydrangeas in Edgartown are almost exclusively blue. There are pinks and purples here and there, but blue is definitely the signature colour. Does anyone know how The Kelley House, in particular, gets theirs so blue? It’s astonishing. I’m a very early riser and I would not be a bit surprised to find their night manager going over them with a paint brush.

The Kelley House Hydrangeas

The Beach Plum Inn grows some enormous, white hydrangeas on the Menemsha Hills. In fact, all of their flowers are impressive. I’ve been thinking that I will write a post covering the flowers of The Vineyard, but we will see. Down closer to Menemsha Harbor are lush bright blooms of fuchsia hydrangeas reminiscent of the sprawling shrubs of every shade of pink and purple in Oak Bluffs’ Ocean Park. This is nothing to say of all of the private plants peeking over fences and reaching toward the ocean.

Hydrangeas at The Beach Plum Inn

As their name would suggest, hydrangeas require a lot of water. In fact, if you have some at home, in a small pot, and they look like they’re past it, turn the plant upside down and submerge the blooms completely in cold water. Let them suck up as much water as possible. It will revive them. Cold water is actually an important point. You should always water your hydrangea with cold water. They love it.

When I think of Martha’s Vineyard, I picture weather-greyed cedar shingles, sea grass, split rail fences, stonewalls, and lots and lots of hydrangeas. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Which colour is your favourite?


  1. Crispin, it’s the ph level in the soil that determines the color of endless summer hydrangeas. If the soul is acidic or less than a ph of 6 or 7 then the hydrangea is blue. If it’s alkaline soil, then it gets pink. Some people think that adding limestone to the soil in the spring will help change the color but I’m not sure about that. I guess the Cape soil is pretty acidic naturally, and especially at the Kelley House, eh?

    1. I have heard this. How powerful of an effect does it have I wonder. Does the PH of the soil only serve to enhance the colour of the original plant or could it actually change it? So fascinating… Thank you so much for your feedback!

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