“They couldn’t have been spies,” Ms. Gugigi said. “Look what she did with the hydrangeas.”
p. A3, New York Times, June 29, 2010
In a report in The New York Times on a Russian spy ring, hydrangeas surfaced as possible evidence. Perhaps even as contrary evidence. The purported spies were deeply planted—putting down roots even deeper than those of hydrangeas. They were largely married couples living in American cities, where the Times reported “they seemed to be ordinary couples, working ordinary jobs, chatting to the neighbors about gardening and schools.” These insidious gardeners were, however, also reported to be swapping orange spy bags in stairwells, writing in invisible ink, and living with borrowed identities on forged passports. [Personally, I think that all gardeners live with borrowed identities.]
It was, of course, the role of hydrangeas that caught my attention in this story. Ms. Gugigi, a neighbor to one of the putatively spying couples, noted to the Times that one of the spies was an “accomplished gardener.” Ms. Gugigi made the statement above, equating effectively good hydrangeas with patriotism if not wholesome American-ness.
I am dubious about Ms. Gugigi’s assertions. Good gardening surely shows the influence of the English. And the hydrangeas . . . I bet they were originally from Asia!