Hydrangeas are a good flower to dry indoors to enjoy in arrangements all year long. The simplest way to preserve them is by air drying. Leave them on the shrub until they start to feel papery dry, rustling to the touch, then cut them. Nature has really done the drying for you. Cutting is done before the flowers turn brown or become too brittle to use and long before the first frost. When gathering your blooms, keep in mind how you plan to use them and cut the stem length accordingly. I like to cut the stems long and then reduce to the size needed.
Hydrangeas arborescens(Annabelles, PeeGees,Limelight) are long stemmed plants ideal for cutting. In the zone 6 climate where I live, the Annabelles seem to be the only hydrangeas that survived last winter’s brutal weather. They flower on new wood and can be cut with abandon. After admiring my friend Barb’s lush plants a few weeks ago and pining about not having my hydrangeas bloom this year, she surprised me with a huge dried bouquet of Annabelles on my front porch when I returned from vacation last week! I knew I had to write about the joys of dried hydrangeas.
Hydrangeas macrophylla(Mop Heads, Lacecaps) flower on old wood and tend to have shorter stems. These should be cut above the first set of buds so as not to affect next season’s flowers. Many Northeast gardeners did not have the H. macrophylla shrubs bloom this year, much to their collective chagrin. I am told they should rebound and return next season.
Once you bring your hydrangeas indoor, strip all the leaves. The dried flowers will have a more muted coloration. As the flowers lose moisture, the pigment remains behind albeit in a softer hue. White blooms may dry to a creamy yellow or to a greenish brown hue. Bright pinks may become a deep red when dried. Store them either upright in a container or tie them upside down. Either way they are ready to use in your arrangements. It is best to arrange the flowers soon after cutting in whatever container you have chosen. Once the flowers have dried, the florets become brittle and difficult to rearrange.
My favorite project with dired hydrangeas was making a rectangular wreath using an old frame, a glue gun and hanging the wreath with a ribbon. I found it easier to put the glue on the frame first and to stick the flower in the glue than trying to glue the flower first.
The dried hydrangeas will last all year and even longer, if kept out of direct sunlight. With dried hydrangeas, think beyond fall arrangements. I like to use them in a garden-themed Christmas tree. They add texture and dimension, are lightweight and organic. I sometimes add a little sparkle with a light spray of gold paint on the tips of the flowers. At the end of the season, they go out with the tree, no storage needed!
Dried hydrangeas are versatile and bring long lasting beauty from your garden indoors. How will you showcase yours?
“A dead hydrangea is as intricate and lovely as one in bloom.” Toni Morrison