“I simply called her in Atlanta, out of the blue, inviting her to our guest house and barbecue on Nantucket,” says Mary Kay. “She thought a moment and then replied, ‘Put me in the book.’” During the festivities, Mary Kay asked Mal if he had met Penny. Mal said no, but had noticed her admiring the hydrangeas. It was a great surprise when the two finally met, immediately becoming friends. Later on, when giving talks together at conventions, Penny would delight the audience with the aside, “I was Mal Condon’s birthday present!” Mal, Mary Kay, and Penny even traveled together to England and France in 2001 to give joint presentations.
When the Condons are asked for an opinion on their favorite hydrangea, they usually start with a quote from Penny McHenry: “My favorite is the one I’m looking at.” Of all the species, the Macrophylla, native to Japan, has the greatest color range, Mal notes. The mopheads have large globular blooms, while the lacecaps have a center of female seed capsules surrounded by larger male blossoms.