When and Where
The best time to cut hydrangea blooms is when the petals start to harden off and turn papery--usually between late June and mid-July. Harvest them in the morning, and place them in a cool, dry, shady location until you are through arranging them. Use sharp pruning shears to make cuts above leaf buds. Shape shrubs as you cut their blooms. It's a great time to remove any long, stray shoots or reduce plants that are exceeding their boundaries.
Thoroughly soak florist foam with water, and place it in the center of a pedestal bowl or cake plate. Cut a bucketful of hydrangea blooms. Begin pushing their stems into the foam. Place them around the bottom, and work your way up until it is completely covered. You can use a pencil to make holes in the foam if the hydrangeas' stems are too weak to penetrate it. Pack the blooms tight enough so you can't see the foam.
Avoid displaying the cut blooms in a bright, sunny area. Keep the arrangement moist for a week, and then let the florist foam and flowers dry out naturally. After a few weeks, they should be completely dry. Leave the blooms in the centerpiece, or pull them out to reusethem later in a dried arrangement.
Bunches of Blooms
If you don't already have hydrangeas in your garden, don't plant just one; plant several. That way, you'll have lots of blooms to pick. Selections such as 'Blue Prince,' 'Nikko Blue,' 'Penny Mac,' 'Endless Summer,' and 'All Summer Beauty' are reliable performers that will fill your garden and home with colorful blooms for years to come. To purchase these plants, contact Forestfarm, (541) 846-7269 or www.forestfarm.com; Hydrangeas Plus, toll-free 1-866-433-7896 or www.hydrangeasplus.com; or White Flower Farm, 1-800-503-9624 or www.whiteflowerfarm.com.
"Petals on a Pedestal" is from the June 2006 issue of Southern Living.