img_17742By Judy Leaver, Guest Blogger

One of the knockout surprises for me has been seeing the variety of beautiful flowers that people in both Portugal and Spain grow in their gardens, window boxes and planters.  Virtually every home we pass, whether modest or affluent, is punctuated in some way by flowers and plants.  Birds of paradise, palm trees, roses, wisteria, bougainvillea, gladiolas, orchids, rhododendron, Peruvian lilies, day lilies — it looks as if almost anything will grow here and people clearly get a great deal of pleasure from growing exuberant plants and flowers, often alongside lush vegetable gardens, and beneath their grape arbors.  Another form of gracious hospitality to beautify our journey.

            The varied and passionate hues of hydrangeas, in particular, have amazed us.  It’s funny how many of us think of hydrangeas in connection with an older generation of relatives. They lined the side of my Aunt Winnie’s ramshackle house in West Plains, MO.  I remember hers as white or light blue. Here you may see them as fuchsia, plum,

carmine red, cobalt, indigo, peacock blue, port wine. The variation in color has something to do with acidity in the soil. 

            I was enjoying them so much on Friday that I stepped in a hole and severely sprained my ankle.  Now my entire right foot, too, has bloomed into every hue of hydrangea…from my toes to mid-calf. 

            I’m beginning to see signs of rotten banana colors, but at least I’ve been able to get back on the trail.