Hydrangeas are a shrub with flowers consisting of large, lush clusters of many blossoms.

The three most common types a) the large, full-headed variety, known as a mop head (the most popular); b) the disk-shaped variety with loose, graceful clusters of flowers consisting mostly of small closed buds, known as the lace cap; and c) the cream-colored, cone-shaped hydrangea with full, elongated blossoms, known as the panicle hydrangea.

A fresh hydrangea has most of the flowers in the cluster open, except for the lace cap variety. The flower is sturdy and firm to the touch.

Hydrangeas benefit from extra conditioning. Drape cold, wet cloths over the top of the blossoms after they are cut.

NAMES: Hydrangea.

VARIETIES: Hydrangea macrosphylla, which includes the mop heads and lace cap varieties, and Hydrangea paniculata, from which the cone-shaped variety is developed.

COLORS: Pale to intense shades of blue, purple, pink, white, green, and some deep burgundy shades. Some varieties produce two-tone colors.

SCENT: None.

FRESHNESS: Most of the flowers are open and firm to the touch.

VASE LIFE: If conditioned properly, 5 to 7 days or longer.

AVAILABILITY: Summer into early fall. However, most are becoming available all year.

COST: Moderately priced for most. Antique hydrangeas varieties—expensive.

MEANING: Perseverance.