Naturally, I dry my Hydrangeas

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Considering the overwhelming beauty of the Hydrangea plant, it’s no wonder I cherish the pleasure of taking the time to dry them each year so I may have months of delight admiring their loveliness. Enjoying them in the garden is one thing, but having them indoors, well past their blooming season, is always a great opportunity to discover new ways of showcasing them. The professionals will tell you there are several methods of drying Hydrangeas; but I’ve found “water drying” helps me retain their shape, color and longevity the best.

That said, one can have beautifully dried Hydrangeas that are as lovely as the ones found at your local florist. The biggest challenge is to determine the best time to take on this project. Truth be told, if you cut the flowers in the peak of their blooms, they will have too much moisture. Too late in the season, or after a rainfall, they’ll turn brown and moldy. My trick is in simply understanding the right time. Your timing is more important than anything else, so pay attention to your garden flowers as they will tell you exactly when they are ready regardless of whether you are (ok so they’re a little selfish here).

Over the years, I have heard it all; dry in an attic, put in an old suitcase, hang upside-down, put in a microwave, and my favorite - store in a hot car trunk! None of these interesting and creative ideas will ever work unless your timing is right. As tempting as it may be to cut Hydrangea flowers at the height of their season and color intensity, this doesn't translate well for the project as they will wilt and lose their magnificence if left out of water.

My secret to drying Hydrangeas was mastered over a decade ago, when I began to cultivate and create my extensive Hydrangea garden. Back then, I paid close attention to the blooms, and how they responded throughout the seasons. Their once soft-to-the-touch, hydrated and flexible flowers begin to change both in color and texture right on the plant. This is the time to experiment with harvesting and is generally done during the months of August through November depending upon the specific variety.

Here in Connecticut, as the cooler weather arrives, they seem to become even more interesting in color and texture. My Annabelle Hydrangeas usually age to a cool lime green color by August, while my Endless Summer variety takes on lighter shades of blue and pink with touches of burgundy and rust by late September. My Pee Gee Hydrangea offers me a late October harvest and plenty of flowers to select.

So, to make this process an attainable project, I’ve created five simple steps to help you along the way. Drying Hydrangea blooms “au naturelle” is the only way Mother Nature truly intended us to do it.

What you will need:

A selection of ready-to-harvest Hydrangea blossoms, garden shears, water, and a decorative glass vessel.

Step ONE:

• Forage in your garden. The best time to harvest your flowers is late morning, just after the dew has evaporated from the leaves. Select flowers that have lost their softness and have begun to change colors. Choose only the best flowers, since drying will emphasize imperfections. If the flowers have movement they are not ready yet. Quick tip. Blue, purple and pink flowers will retain the best color when dried.

Step TWO: 

• Cut stem at least 12 to 18 inches down from the base of the flower, remove all leaves from the stem.

Step THREE:

• Place the cut flowers into a deep clear vessel filled half-way with fresh water. All stems should be submerged several inches.

Step FOUR:

• Place in a cool, dry area away from direct sunlight yet somewhere you can enjoy the view.

Step FIVE:

• Allow the water to evaporate naturally from the vase. The timing is dependent upon the particular variety and conditions like humidity, temperature and air circulation. Most flowers will take somewhere between 10 to 30 days. Once the water has completely gone, your Hydrangeas should be dry and ready to use for any floral or winter interest decorations. You will know they are properly dry when they feel stiff and the stems snap easily. Quick tip. Spray with aerosol hair spray to limit any messiness in the house if you are going to use them for indoor displays and or projects.

Great ways to showcase your new dried flowers. In the fireplace hearth: a breathtaking place to create a bouquet that showcases your fireplace without the need to start a fire. Do this for the weeks that lead up to using your hearth, then relocate the flowers and enjoy the flames. This is also a perfect way to enjoy a fireplace that does not function or is rarely used. Warning - never ever light a floral arrangement to start a fire, as this is just a dumb idea.

For a natural outdoor winter-interest detail: window boxes, planters and trellis become fabulous focal points when combined with evergreen clippings. The birds will love this too as they will take pieces for building their spring nests. Pick a color, spray a color: floral paint comes in a variety of colors and can be found at your local craft store. Spraying will transform your Hydrangea flowers into decorative holiday décor. Silver, red or green can be a festive fun way to show off the beauty and texture. Use on holiday presents as an accent with a fabulous bow. How fun is this?

In a mercury glass vessel: mercury glass has become more popular than ever these days despite its climbing prices. Many companies have reproduced this look with the same aged and classic feel at a fraction of the cost. These types of vessels are perfect to pick up the tones and rustic detail of the dyed Hydrangea flowers. sMARt tip. Fill with aquarium gravel and stick stems inside for a heavy and secure arrangement.

Now, if you’re one of those people considering storing your new dried hydrangea flowers I have three words of advice. Don’t do it! As simple as this project is, you’re better off updating and replacing your collection each year. Toss out those blossoms that are older than a year. By all means enjoy them for the season; but there’s nothing worse than dusty, old, dyed flowers in a home. Aaah-choo!

And there you have it.