Growing, Cutting and Drying Hydrangeas

I never had much appreciation for hydrangeas, as I’m not that big a fan of their classic purple color (clearly I’m in the minority here in New England, where purple hydrangea proliferate). Since we’ve been at our house, though, I’ve grown a real appreciation for our hydrangea bushes, which shift from light green, to almost white, to a beautiful ombré magenta in fall.

Fall is by far my favorite season for our hydrangea. Look at these colors!

We also have green hydrangeas that line the walkway to our house:

They aren’t as much up my alley simply because, being the same green as their foliage, they don’t make much impact. Their giant blooms are nicest when they’re at their lightest green in summer.

After some research I believe that our two hydrangea shrubs that turn this lovely magenta color are the ‘fire and ice’ type.

Hydrangeas are incredibly forgiving to cut, arrange and dry. They’re easy to arrange because of their puffy shape. This arrangement took me approximately 30 seconds to do – just put them in a vase, they look great!

Due completely to laziness, I accidentally stumbled upon what I think is the best way to dry hydrangeas. Last year, again when my hydrangeas had turned this beautiful ombré color late in the season, I cut a big bouquet, stripped the leaves off the stems, then forgot to ever add new water to the vase. The water evaporated to about half its original volume, the blooms completely dried out, yet the hydrangeas looked just as gorgeous as ever – no browning, nothing. I took them out of the remaining water, cut off any yucky part of the stem, and TA-DA, put them dried into a new vase and had them all winter.

The one thing I did wrong was that I displayed the dried hydrangeas in a spot that got a lot of sun. The sun bleached the bouquet out on the sunny side, which meant that once it was in that spot I didn’t move it so that bleaching wasn’t noticeable. It kills me that I don’t have photos of that dried bouquet – which I finally got rid of once I had fresh hydrangea again this summer – but then again, it looks the same as these hydrangeas, so hopefully it doesn’t matter!

My head tells me that dried flowers are one step away from silk flowers in décor (YUCK), but my heart tells me that I love having hydrangeas all winter that look like they’ve just been cut. Also, things like this absolutely BONKERS wedding where the planner dried 2,000(!) hydrangeas for the décor help convince me that dried hydrangeas are actually in excellent taste:

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I mean, look at this:

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While I’m not drying thousands anytime soon (seriously – so many questions – where do you FIND this many hydrangea? How do you find the SPACE for so many to dry?), I will be drying hydrangea again this year to add a little easy, moody color for the winter.

Pretty much the only thing I dislike about the whole picking, drying and arranging process, which otherwise could not be easier, is the exact same thing that is difficult about picking any garden flower, vegetable or herb.

That’s right, the bugs.

Practically every zoomed in photo I took of the hydrangea blooms outside had one of these guys:

Or one of these guys:

What to do? My super high tech solution is to gently jiggle and knock the flower around once I pick it, causing spiders and ants to fall off. It works surprisingly well! For my bouquet I saw at least eight little critters come off doing this. As someone who HATES spiders, any fewer spiders in my house is a win.

Any other flowers you find easy to dry? I have a couple others I’ll be harvesting as we get into late fall …

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