Botanical Names: French or mophead hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla), oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)
Paint your landscape with the living color of hydrangea blooms. These beautiful flowering plants unfurl blossoms in a variety of hues, including one of the garden’s most elusive shades: blue. Hydrangea shrubs open striking blossoms that steal the spotlight during peak bloom and stir interest as they linger through other seasons.
Hydrangea blooms offer a few consistent colors. French or mophead hydrangeas (Hydrangeamacrophylla) boast large, showy flower heads in purple, blue and pink shades, although some introductions with white flowers are available. A newer mophead hydrangea, Blushing Bride, opens white flowers that fade to either pink or pale sky blue, depending on soil pH.
Lacecap hydrangea blooms bring purple, blue and pink hues to the garden. With these eye-catching flowers, the center blooms are fertile and appear to have a deeper, richer color than the outer, more traditional individual hydrangea flowers. The result is that lacecap hydrangea blooms bring a two-tone color show to the garden. The effect is lovely and makes this hydrangea shrub an old-fashioned favorite.
Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) probably brings one of the strongest color shows. Its conical flower clusters open white and fade to exquisite blends of rose and pink in autumn. Leaves of oakleaf hydrangea also burst with fall color, shifting to shades of burgundy, wine-red and purple.
Hydrangea blooms not only bring great color to the garden, they can also be clipped and slipped into vases to add beauty to indoor settings. Many gardeners harvest and dry hydrangea flowers to add long-lasting beauty to interior spaces during winter. Blue, purple and pink hydrangea blooms offer the strongest hues when dried.
Drying hydrangea blooms is almost an art form. The methods for drying these showy blossomsare varied. You’ll encounter tales of tossing flowers into a car trunk and letting sun and warmth dry the blossoms, as well as traditional drying techniques like hanging stems upside down in a dark, airy spot. One of the easiest ways to dry hydrangea blooms is to place cut stems in a water-filled vase. As the water evaporates, the hydrangea blooms dry.
While the water evaporation method is probably one of the easiest, there is a trick to success: harvesting flowers at the right stage. Avoid cutting hydrangea blooms at peak color. At that point, blossoms contain too much moisture and will wilt before they dry. Instead, aim to cut stems when flowers start to change color and texture (flexible petals become brittle). Snip 12- to 18-inch stems, place in a vase with several inches of water and allow the water to evaporate. Drying time varies from 12 to 30 days. Flowers are dry when stems are brittle.
A bouquet of dried hydrangeas makes a fantastic display on a fireplace hearth or mantle, and dried blooms hold their own in holiday finery. Weave dried hydrangea blooms into garlands, add them to wreaths or stuff them into urns with holly branches and pine boughs for a natural-looking holiday display.