drying hydrangeas

One of my favorite ways to “wrap” a gift is to place it in an understated colored gift bag then use dried hydrangeas (and other flowers that I have on hand) as the filler instead of tissue paper.  The other day, I passed along one such gift bag to a friend who emailed and asked if I had a blog post about drying hydrangeas.  Well, Patty, here it is!

I love hydrangeas.  I find beauty in their simplicity, and since blue is my favorite color, it is the one flower I can always count on to take my breath away.  I was over at my parents’ house this weekend, and their home, which sits on top of a mountain, is a hydrangea lover’s paradise.  As you round the last curve of their driveway, the purples and pinks span an entire range of the spectrum from violet sky to romantic pink.  While I am always amazed by how many colors one plant can embody, I find myself breathless at their ivory oak leaf hydrangeas that tower in front of the house.  This year, they are more than 7 feet tall and look as if God herself plucked the smallest clouds from the sky to rest upon the branches.  They are gorgeous.

And so, how do I keep these lovelies around all year long?  Well, it has taken me two years to figure it out, and I will share my tips with you.

1.  Do not be tempted to cut the flowers for drying at the height of their color.  In my quest to capture the perfect shade of cornflower blue, I snipped some of these brilliant puffballs off the bush in June two summers ago.  I hung them in my dry, dark guest room and waited with eager anticipation.  When I visited them two weeks later, all I had was shriveled brown petals.

2. Be open minded about the colors hydrangeas turn as they mature on the plant.  The first year, I could have cared less about the faded blues and antique greens.  I wanted brilliance.  I wanted “pop.”  Last year, however, I came to appreciate the subtlety of color in dried hydrangeas.  They are so gracious about their maturity and aging process, neither wilting or withering–simply becoming more beautiful as they grow older.

arrangement for a friend (in upcycled bed spring)

3.  Once the plants have aged (close to the end of the summer), cut them.  Where I live, they become a shade of green that creates a patina on the fading blue.  I know when I see that color that it is safe to start collecting.

4.  Hang them in a dark, dry place.  Because they have thin petals, the process shouldn’t take long.  Actually, I just leave mine hanging up until I need them.

5.  Another option I have tried with aged hydrangeas is to cut them, peel the leaves off the stem, then use them as fresh flowers for a bit.  If they start to wilt, I go ahead and pull them out of the water and hang, or I dump the water and let them dry in the vase.  If they are a decent size, they will hold shape.

6.  Store them in a place where they won’t be bleached by light or mildewed by moisture.  Also, know that after time, they will continue to fade.  I had some in a vase in my room from last summer, and now I will replace in  a couple of weeks.

7.  If all else fails, you can purchase silica gel at a craft store (like the little beads in packets they put in shoe boxes). Pour it in a plastic bin, then put the hydrangeas in it to dry.  I don’t know how pricey that can get, but I understand that it works.

All in all, I have found so many ways to use my dried hydrangeas, but I will admit–I can’t help but cut those first few that

young Nikko Blue bloom on the farm, Summer 2012

bloom on my Nikko Blue bushes in the spring.  After grey winter days, their beauty feeds my soul.

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