July 16, 2016

How and When To Cut and Dry Hydrangeas To Bring Indoors

Huge panicles of Oak Leaf Hydrangea blooms in basket ready for drying.
Freshly cut basket of Oakleaf Hydrangea Blooms for drying.

Why make something difficult out of something easy? That's how I feel about the process of cutting and drying hydrangeas to bring indoors. More complicated, but no less effective techniques abound, but I have found that (a) WHEN you pluck to dry is far more important than (b) WHAT technique you choose to do so. I have been cutting and drying massive bouquets...

Old-fashioned hydrangea blooms are cut and ready for arranging.
Lime green to pink to blush....mopheads cut for drying and flower arranging.

of dried hydrangeas for years and have found this to me the most straightforward, easiest and most successful method. So here goes:

Hydrangea panicle drapes over the arm of a peeling paint garden bench.
Wait till they are beginning to dry on the plant before cutting. Isn't this a romantic image?

1.  DON'T PICK A BLOOM BEFORE ITS TIME

It is hard to resist cutting a blowsy mophead at its peak of freshness and bloom, in hopes that it will dry and hold that color and form for the long haul indoors. But you will be sorely disappointed in the results if you do so. Wait until mid-late summer (at least here in Oklahoma; later in cooler areas) when the petals begin to assume a 'papery' feel and sound...as they begin to dry while still on the plant. Let Mother Nature start the process for you.

Pink/white Oak Leaf hydrangea bloom on black background
Classic coloring of a Southern grown hydrangea.
2.  LOOK FOR COLOR AS WELL AS TEXTURE TO DETERMINE TIMING

Here in the South, aging and drying blooms will mature to a lime green/white color, eventually changing to pale pink and dusty burgundy tones. These apricot-blush hues are the color palette your hydrangea bouquet will adopt in its dried state.
(Wait too late, and blossoms will just look crunchy, brown and dead. I find this very sad...as those blooms could have been spared this indignity and now be gloriously adorning a special spot in your home.)

In Northern and cooler climes, drying heads will mature in blue to purple tones, a color many friends I know prefer. If this is you (or if, like me, you love both) then you will have to source blooms from up North...either on the web, at florists, or in my case, Whole Foods. 

Remember, even those purchased from other locales will have to be a bit 'papery' and mature  to successfully dry for indoor use. In my experience, any type of hydrangea: Oakleaf, paniculata, mophead, smooth....works if the timing is right.

Laundry basket of drying hydrangea blooms sit on brick wall waiting to be hung out to dry.
Laundry basket of drying hydrangea blooms sit on brick wall waiting to be hung out to dry.

Cascades of drying Oak Leaf Hydrangea blooms create a floral chandelier compliments of Mother Nature.
Cascades of drying Oak Leaf Hydrangea blooms create a floral chandelier compliments of Mother Nature.







Hanging baskets, wrought iron lanterns and pots of topiary help beautify a backyard vignette.

Hanging baskets, wrought iron lanterns and pots of topiary help beautify a backyard vignette.

Hanging baskets, wrought iron lanterns and pots of topiary help beautify a backyard vignette.
Hanging baskets, wrought iron lanterns and pots of topiary help beautify a backyard vignette.



3. CUT IN THE MORNING

By all means, cut in the morning when blooms are still fresh, even in their drying-on-the-plant stage. You will notice that those in shadier locations are typically fresher and less 'beaten up' than those in sunnier, more exposed locations. Cut very long stems....about 18-20 inches...to give you flexibility when arranging. Remove most of the foliage. 



4.  HANG STEMS TO DRY

I suspend stems from whatever and wherever is convenient at the time, as long as their is airflow and protection from the elements. This week it was a bit cooler outside, so I hung many stems from the branches of a redbud tree in a shady situation. It created a wonderful chandelier effect... not unlike cascading bunches of pendulous grapes. The effect was absolutely magical when the sun shone through the delicate petals in the golden evening light. 

Pendulous hydrangea blooms suspended to dry are backlit by the setting sun.
The flowers absolutely glowed...a beautiful floral lantern of sorts.

Others were hung inside to dry, from an actual chandelier in my morning room. Husband and I had to duck for a couple of days, but it was a minor inconvenience for such maximum reward.
This process took only a couple of days as a good bit of the drying process had already occurred on the plant itself.

Indoor chandelier of draping Oak Leaf Hydrangea blooms.
Indoor chandelier of draping Oak Leaf Hydrangea blooms.

As you can plainly see, vignettes and beauty were in abundance. I am dying to do this for reasons other than practical. A wedding or al fresco dinner party perhaps?  SO unfortunate that no one but me, Husband and my camera were here to witness what Mother Nature can create.
But then, perhaps there WERE other appreciating eyes. :)

Red cardinal watches my efforts from a redbud tree branch.
An appreciative cardinal watches my garden styling.
For video of my 4 YOUR GARDEN segments go (here) They should have today's segment on drying hydrangeas up soon.  Next week I'll show you where these beautiful blooms were placed about in my home. Enjoy!

The hanging blossoms really were incredible...I couldn't quit taking pictures as the light changed. I took far too many to include here. If you would like to see more, please check out
my photo gallery on the  P O T A G E R  Facebook page. You can view my page and follow me on FB here.  For lots of garden inspiration, you can follow me on my Pinterest Page here, or on Instagram here. I am trying to be much better about posting images and ideas you may find valuable. :)

And one more thing. If you want tips on propagating your hydrangeas, go here for a previous post I wrote on the subject, or to my friend Courtney Helena's Brazilian take on the topic here.

Enough about hydrangeas.  Go enjoy your weekend, all!

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