Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Drying Hydrangea

Drying Hydrangea is very simple and a lot of fun !!! It just takes a little know how. This I discovered entirely by trial and error (having listened to the advice of many, including my own mother - and having read way too many gardening books!) In the end - there is just nothing like trying it out your ownself.

In doing so, I discovered that different techniques are required for different varieties of hydrangea. For this purpose let's divide them into three groups.

Hydrangeas similar to the one in the illustration we'll call "Fancies", add to that the big fluffy ones "Annabelle", and then the "Pee Gee" Hydrangea. For all hydrangeas the success in drying is in the timing of cutting the bloom.


Wait until the hydrangea is fully in bloom and at it's peak in vibrance of colour. For some this can be after the first cold night or even a frost. Once the colour begins to fade or the petals begin to lose their moisture - the hydrangea is past the optimum time for drying - but still worth a try! "Fancies" need to be placed in shallow water - be certain each stem is actually in the water - this is called the water method of drying. The water keeps the petals open. Blooms with stems not touching the water, usually wither and wrinkle. The length of time depends on the humidity each summer. I have had success in 3 days and some years it took 10. One particularly humid summer, they did not dry at all for me. I use a scrunch test - I squish the bloom each morning and if it sounds crunchy - I take it out of the water. (very technical terms!)


These are the big fluffy ones you notice in many gardens in late summer. In bud, they are a brilliant chartreusse green - very pretty! In full bloom, they are white and make a big impact in the garden(and by the way have limited success as a cut flower). Then they start to turn green again (wow that is confusing) - at this point, when they are fully green again - this is when you pick them. Another clue is when the stem thickens and becomes stiff. (If they are going dry and brown in the middle of the bloom - it is too late to keep them green when dry.) The Annabelle is at this point already in the drying process - so you do NOTHING !!! I have found that if I put them in water - they continue their life cycle - which is to continue to die - and so they will go brown! Also you do not need to hang them upside down as you do to "Air Dry" lavender or roses. You can just go ahead and use them right away! Simple as that !

Pee Gee:

Pee Gee's are the late bloomers - the ones that are cone shaped - and start out a vanilla white. In the fall they take on a pink (a bronze/pink) beginning at the tip of the bloom & then extending back to the stem - a cold night or a frost intensifies this colour - that is when you pick it - do NOT put the stems in water - they will dry on their won - hanging them upside down assists the stems to remain upright during the drying process!

Have fun! It's a great way to bring the garden indoors for the winter !