Thursday, December 1, 2011

A hydrangea in honor

It's been a very sad week for the Filipino community here in Seattle as we mourn with the death of Danny Vega, a 58 year old hairstylist living in the Rainer Valley, who was severely beaten by a group of young teenagers close to his home/shop. Beaten and robbed, those close to him consider it a hate crime as Vega was openly gay and very active in the Filipino community.

Why I'm posting this on my gardening blog may have many of you scratching your heads. I didn't know Danny Vega; I don't know if he was a gardener or not, but he was a respected member of a community that I'm a part of and, in a way, what happened to him could easily happen to anyone of us.

He was a small business owner such as myself and pursued a natural talent and gained the respect and admiration of many. He showed that Filipinos can make a mark and be recognized.

On Monday night after work, I texted my brother asking if he knew Danny Vega and I had to break the news to him that he had passed away as he was on life support in a coma a few days before. Neither of us really knew him, but my gut was telling me that I had to pay my respects somehow. So, I went to the store thinking I'd just buy some flowers and a card to bring to his home. At the floral shop, I found a few potted plants that, I thought, would last much longer and this hydrangea caught my attention.

Dubbed as the "Shooting Star" hydrangea, this Macrophylla-lacecap type is unusual, elegant and, in my mind at that moment, could represent the sky and the heavens above where Mr. Vega now resides. It the trade, it is also known as 'Hanabi' and 'Fuji Waterfall' (which I think is odd because I've grown FW and looks nothing like these florist plants).

That evening, I drove down to his shop where visitors have left flowers, cards, candles and their well-wishes to the friends and family. I placed my hydrangea plant and card down when a group of people came from inside the house to relight some of the candles that had gone out. They asked how I knew Danny Vega and I told them that I didn't know him, but I saw the news and felt compelled to just pay my respects. They kindly invited me inside to commiserate as they shared many stories and experiences, both in English and Tagalog.

I have mentioned that I was a horticulturist and they asked about how to care for 'Shooting Star' hydgrangea.

I explained the basics:

1) These were grown in a greenhouse under controlled conditions so they would flower for the holidays. Normally, they come into bloom over the summer and into autumn.

2) They're the same species as the typical "grandma blue" hydrangeas and should be able to grow outside.

3) Keep as an indoor plant and if you desire, move it out after danger of severe cold.

4) Supposed to be cold hardy in USDA Zone7 - Zone 9. But I still question its overall hardiness as I've been reading mixed reviews about the plant.

5) Well drained soil no matter what.

I don't know if they're interested in planting it up or not, but at least it will last through for several weeks (weather pending).

Being able to contribute and pay my respects towards someone with flowers or a plant such as this hydrangea makes the field I'm in far more meaningful. Even though it's a sad moment, plants and flowers still have the same effect on people during moments like this and just makes the grieving process a little easier.

My thoughts and prayers to the friends and family and my Danny Vega rest in peace.



  1. Sad news for everyone really. I'm sorry to hear the news and that Seattle hasn't been able to stop these crimes.

    Beautiful hydrangea though. What is the name of the shop that is carrying this plant right now? Maybe it should be renamed, Vega is the name of a star, after all.

  2. How horrific...

    You did pick a beautiful plant to honor Mr. Vega, though, and I am sure that it was a better choice than cut flowers. I know several people who lovingly tend plants that were given to them upon the death of a loved one and in a way those plants have become cherished memorials.

  3. How sad to hear of this. You picked out the perfect plant.