Everyone on Cape Cod knows that this wasn’t a good summer for blue hydrangeas. Last year’s below zero night in February, followed by a warm March and April deep freeze, zapped most of the flower buds on these shrubs so we didn’t get our normal display of summer blooms. Those varieties that also produce flowers in the fall on new stems are now graced with a few blue blossoms…better late than never!
Those who want to pick these hydrangeas for dried bouquets, wreaths or adding to their Christmas trees want to know when to pick for the best preservation of flowers. Here’s a visual guide to which flowers will dry well and which ones will wilt.
This is a brand new blue hydrangea flower. Sometimes it confuses people when they see that these flowers are white as they first open. The blue color comes later.
Here is a fresh, blue Penny Mac flower at the very end of October. Like Endless Summer, All Summer Beauty and many others, Penny Mac blooms on both old and new wood. This year on Cape Cod there were no flowers on old wood since they were killed in the winter. Now that it’s fall, however, these shrubs have a few new blooms. If you pick Hydrangea flowers when they are this fresh and soft, the flowers will only wilt. They don’t dry well when they are this clear, new blue.
This is an older Penny Mac flower. You can see that it’s a more faded blue, with touches of gray and purple/pink. If you touch this flower you’ll also discover that the petals are a bit firmer than those that are new and fresh. In some ways, the older flowers also become a bit “papery.” These flowers will last when picked at this stage and dried.
Once the flowers look like this you can cut them for arrangements or drying. If you’re cutting stems of about 12″ long you won’t be removing too many of next year’s flowers, so don’t worry about harvesting these.
Here is an Enchantress hydrangea flower that will dry well. It has turned a bit more gray-blue than the fresh flowers on this re-blooming variety with black stems.
Here is a basket that includes a variety of blue hydrangeas and some Hydrangea paniculata (aka PG Hydrangeas or Pee Gee Hydrangeas) for bouquets. The blue flowers will last for months when kept away from sunlight. The Pee Gee blooms will gradually turn brown but can be improved with a touch of gold spray paint in December.
Here’s what you need to know about drying hydrangea flowers. If they are at the right stage (firmer petals that are a bit papery and less true-blue) they will dry standing up in a dry vase. You don’t have to hang them upside down, nor use any other flower-preserving materials. You don’t have to dry them in the dark…just keep them away from bright windows if you want them to last longer. Enjoy!