The end of the summer is just days away but instead of celebrating the season, the last bright blooms are starting to look like a symbol of summer’s end. If dried now though, hydrangeas—one of summer’s most decadent ensigns—can decorate your home throughout winter. There are a few ways to do it, all simple.
To start off, pick blooms in the middle of a sunny day. Be sure they are dry. Don’t aim for the most recent flowers; those that have matured on the plant dry best. Since hydrangeas dry to different shades depending on the climate in your region, it might be worth supplementing your garden harvest with some hydrangeas from the florist (that way, you get more variety). No matter the process you use, the first step requires removing all leaves from the stem.
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To air-dry the blooms, simply put your picks in a vase without water and place it out of direct sunlight, anywhere the circulation is good. While it’s not required, you can get faster results by bundling the stems and wrapping them with a rubber band before hanging upside down in a dry, cool room (basement or attic is perfect). After about three weeks, the blooms should be dried and feel papery.
A faster process involves inexpensive liquid clear glycerin soap base. To use the soap, stir together 2 parts hot water and 1 part glycerin in a vase. Crush the ends of the hydrangea stems as you would normally, with a hammer or mallet, until the stems are mushy. Then place the hydrangea in the vase and watch the glycerin creep up the stem until even the top flowers are a natural, rich brown color.
For the most natural color, use silica gel (like that packet you always take out of a new purse), which can be purchased at craft supply stores. Just lay the hydrangea in a plastic container and pour over the desiccant until the plant is completely covered. After 2-4 days you can remove the bloom, making sure there are no residual crystals left on the petals.
For more on fall gardening, consider: