Chicken Coop Chatter©
Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) is one of the easiest plants to grow and dry for year round bouquets. One hydrangea flower head makes a statement by itself or in a mixed bouquet. Some flower heads can be the size of an average dinner plate. There is evidence in fossils that the Hydrangea was growing some 30 million years ago when the Pacific NW was a semi-tropical region, which makes it one of the oldest plants known to man, along with Gingko baloba and Pinion. The fossils are easy to recognize, which is important to note that the muliflora variety has been virtually unchanged through history. There are of course new hybrids and colors available, but the original Hydrangea has not changed through time.
Hydrangea was no doubt one of the few pleasurable flowering shrubs that the pioneers had in their gardens. I have heard that they often planted one by the kitchen door so as they tossed out dish water, they watered the shrub. It's easy to imagine in the harsh environments that the pioneers endured, that the hydrangea blossoms were a special treat to savor.
Hydrangea is one of my all time favorite garden plants, for it's consistent appearance, extended bloom time, minimal care and longevity. Drying it is a bonus so you can enjoy the blooms throughout the winter months, either in bouquets or wreaths. I often use the dried hydrangea blooms as gift package toppers with ribbons for an extra special gift, that the recipient can save and place in a dry vase or add to other dry bouquets. My favorite ways of displaying is a large bouquet in an old water pail or a large crock, to sit at an entrance or special corner to brighten a room.
Hydrangea will grow easily from cuttings, so if you have a friend or neighbor with hydrangea, be sure to ask for a fresh bouquet, that you can start cuttings with. And if you have more cuttings than needed, simply dry the remaining flower stalks for display.
Make sure to clip below a leaf node, remove the leaves, and poke the stem into a good potting soil, so the leaf nodes are beneath the soil. You can save the flower heads to dry, they are not needed for the cutting, and in fact may take energy away from that cutting that is needed to sprout. Keep the soil damp, and the pot in a protected area out of direct sun and wind. If the cuttings are taken in spring before bloom, you can expect to see them sprout and even bloom within a couple months after they are started. If cuttings are taken in the fall, protect from wind chill and deep freezes. By spring you will notice new growth and the plant could be in bloom by June. I have taken many cuttings and grown them for friends and family with ease and minimum care. Always take more cuttings than you actually want, in case some fail to root.
The color of hydrangea can be changed. So if you take cuttings from a blue hydrangea you can alter the color to be a deep blue, light blue, purple or pink. When hydrangea is lacking in nutrients it will turn a shade of green, you can restore the color with the use of an acidic fertilizer. If you want pink or light blue a little agriculture lime around the root zone will provide the lighter colors. And if you want to play a little bit with color, you can add both the acidic fertilizer and Agriculture lime to the root zone for depth in color and a bit of a mixture of color.
Note: A white hydrangea cannot be altered but the typical blue hydrangea can be even if it has become a shade of green. I add the fertilizer or lime about every couple of years, however mine have not been treated now for about 4 years, and they still maintain their altered colors. I keep one a light blue, one a dark blue and one a purple, while another is varying shades of pink to purple with undertones of blue.
Hydrangea does best in a Semi-shaded area with morning sun, afternoon shade. I have mine planted on the north side with exposure to East and West but not hot afternoon sun. They have thrived now for many years in the same location with periodic trimming and minimal water.
The best way to prune Hydrangea is when you are removing the flower heads. Cut the stem at a leaf node, in the direction you want the plant to grow. Always use a slanted cut. You can trim out some of the stalks to thin out the plant or to remove old wood to help revitalize the plants. The hydrangea does not require heavy pruning. They grow naturally to about 4 or 5 feet which is easy to maintain as you cut your bouquets for drying.
At the end of bloom season, remove flower heads that you do not intend to dry. This keeps the plants tidy and is essentially the only pruning needed for the plant through it's lifetime. For a first season plant, make sure to water regularly until established. After the first year, they can do well with an occasional watering if kept out of wind and direct sun.
(For instructions on how to dry Hydrangea, refer to the link: http://justfowlingaround.weebly.com/pioneer-gardens/how-to-dry-hydrangea )
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CREDENTIALS: Certified Oregon State Master Gardener since 1999. Horticulture degree 2001. Study of Herbs and Horticulture Therapy, heavy research and study of all plants and herbs. Gardening a lifetime.