In my quest for a garden of tea-producing plants, I decided to track down a kind of Japanese hydrangea which can produce amacha. In some forms of hydrangea serrata, the leaves contain high levels of phyllodulcin which becomes a natural sweetener after fermentation. Now, this is typically done with a varietal called “koamacha” in Japan, but as far as I can see, that doesn’t exist in the US. Another one, possibly acceptable, is called “oamacha,” which I tracked down as being sold from a farm about an hour away.
Perfect. It’s worth a try and an excuse to get out of the house during month three of quarantine.
After a few late-nights of comparing photos, I developed a hypothesis I wanted to try. I suspect that the cultivar titled “Hokkaido” is actually the “koamacha” I’m looking for. We’ll see.
I started driving, and soon enough my sunny Saturday afternoon was flooded by a downpour. Upon arriving at the farm, I was soaked immediately after stepping out of the car. I quickly ran over to the greenhouses and grabbed the two plants I wanted without much time or patience to meticulously select the finest specimin.
I paid, promptly left, and the skies cleared up again along the way. Upon inspecting my new plants, I could tell there were some things that were a bit off about them. According to Google and a few gardening friends, it seems like my plants suffered from a phosphorous deficiency, but a few weeks in fresh soil and a bit of fertilizer should resolve the issues.
Having been in the ground for few weeks now, that certainly seems to be the case, with new growth being far more vibrant. However, the discoloration on the leaves is still present, and it seems to also be affecting some of the petals. I’m not expecting instant solutions. It will probably take some time for them to get used to the new environment as well.