Plant of the Week
At this time of year we are in the middle of our mad dash to preserve as many of our hydrangea flower heads as possible. We will use them for so many projects in the next few months-to adorn holiday wreaths and roping, to add oomph to dried arrangements and to decorate the shops and bistro. So we have done our best to have as many different varieties planted on the properties, from blowzy oakleafs to colorful mop-heads. Soon the rafters of the upper barn will be festooned with wire hangers loaded with blossoms.
The first to flower are the Bigleaf Hydrangeas, or H. macrophylla. These colorful flowers will hang dry, but the lovely blue and pink hues tend to fade to a soft fawny tan. We have a little more luck when they are placed in a vase of water that is allowed to evaporate, giving us a wisp of soft color. For the best results though, get some silicon crystals from the craft store and follow package instructions. When harvesting, wait until the sterile blossoms in the flower head have fully expanded before you cut the stem just above a leaf bud. If you’re lucky, the plant will reward your pruning with new flowers in a month or so. We’re really enamored with ‘Endless Summer’ and it doesn’t matter to us if the flowers are blue, pink or something in between. We’ll also be experimenting with the more airy lace-cap ‘Twist ‘n Shout’.
Next to be harvested is H. arborescens ‘Annabelle’. The flower heads are huge and we usually cut them apart into smaller clusters, gluing them onto any number of fun projects. The bright pistachio green color is always a beautiful compliment to holiday greenery. We have been experimenting with the new pink ones ‘Invicibelle Spirit’ and ‘BellaAnna’, but haven’t been able to nail down the best timing for cutting yet.
On the heels of the Smooth-leafs are the panicled flowers, H. paniculata. Our all-time favorite for cutting is ‘Limelight’. We wait until the flowers develop some pink color for the best drying. But we’ve planted out a couple of new varieties for the future. We’re crazy for the intense pink of ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ and the unusual shape of ‘Great Star’. And we have high hopes for the clean white of ‘White Diamonds’. The panicled hydrangeas dry best hanging upside-down in an airy, dark space. The barn’s attic is perfect. We attach them to wire hangers with rubber bands that will hold the stems firmly even as they shrink from the drying.
And if we are really blessed, we will harvest some clusters from the oak leaf, or H. quercifolia. It doesn’t happen often, so we are extra excited even if there are just a couple of the airy, deep pink panicles. The foliage and bark are so beautiful though, that this shrub is worth planting whether it flowers or not.
So are you lucky enough to have hydrangeas in your landscape? Appreciate them through the summer, but be sure to clip a few blossoms for drying to use in holiday decorations. It won’t damage the plant at all and you will surely see the hydrangea family them in a some brand new light.