Hydrangeas to Dry For

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Hydrangeas are a good flower to dry indoors to enjoy in arrangements all year long.  The simplest way to preserve them is by air drying.  Leave them on the shrub until they start to feel papery dry, rustling to the touch, then cut them.  Nature has really done the drying for you.  Cutting is done before the flowers turn brown or become too brittle to use and long before the first frost.  When gathering your blooms, keep in mind how you plan to use them and cut the stem length accordingly.  I like to cut the stems long and then reduce to the size needed.

imageHydrangeas arborescens(Annabelles, PeeGees,Limelight) are long stemmed plants ideal for cutting.  In the zone 6 climate where I live, the Annabelles seem to be the only hydrangeas that survived last winter’s brutal weather.  They flower on new wood and can be cut with abandon.  After admiring my friend Barb’s lush plants a few weeks ago and pining about not having my hydrangeas bloom this year, she surprised me with a huge dried bouquet of Annabelles on my front porch when I returned from vacation last week! I knew I had to write about the joys of dried hydrangeas.

Hydrangeas macrophylla(Mop Heads, Lacecaps) flower on old wood and tend to have shorter stems.  These should be cut above the first set of buds so as not to affect next season’s flowers.  Many Northeast gardeners did not have the H. macrophylla shrubs bloom this year, much to their collective chagrin.  I am told they should rebound and return next season.

Once you bring your hydrangeas indoor,  strip all the leaves.  The dried flowers will have a more muted coloration.  As the flowers lose moisture, the pigment remains behind albeit in a softer hue.  White blooms may dry to a creamy yellow or to a greenish brown hue.  Bright pinks may become a deep red when dried. Store them either upright in a container or tie them upside down.  Either way they are ready to use in your arrangements.  It is best to arrange the flowers soon after cutting in whatever container you have chosen. Once the flowers have dried, the florets become brittle and difficult to rearrange.

In a charming basket, hydrangeas offer a cheerful welcome

In a charming basket, hydrangeas offer a cheerful welcome

To create an easy table centerpiece, circle a hurricane with a crown of hydrangeas with the stems cut short.  Iplaced the hurricane in a platter with raised sides then simply rested the hydrangeas all around until the platter was concealed.

To create an easy table centerpiece, circle a hurricane with a crown of hydrangeas with the stems cut short. I placed the hurricane in a platter with raised sides then simply nestled the hydrangeas all around until the platter was concealed.

A trio of stems in a galvanized steel basket is a simple arrangement on a bookcase.  A ribbon adds a punch of color.

A trio of stems in a galvanized steel basket is a simple arrangement on a bookcase. A complimentary ribbon adds a punch of color and a professional finish.

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A big bunch in an earthen vessel creates a magnificent fall arrangement with a few seasonal gourds as an accent.

My favorite project with dired hydrangeas was making a rectangular wreath using an old frame, a glue gun and hanging the wreath with a ribbon. I found it easier to put the glue on the frame first and to stick the flower in the glue than trying to glue the flower first.

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The finished wreath, hanging above my kitchen sink!

The finished wreath, hanging above my kitchen sink!

A mini cluster cut from the larger bloom is perfect as a gift topper.

A mini cluster cut from the larger bloom is perfect as a gift topper.

The dried hydrangeas will last all year and even longer, if kept out of direct sunlight.  With dried hydrangeas, think beyond fall arrangements.  I like to use them in a garden-themed Christmas tree.  They add texture and dimension, are light weight and organic.  I sometimes add a little sparkle with a light spray of gold paint on the tips of the flowers.  At the end of the season, they go out with the tree, no storage needed! image

Dried hydrangeas are versatile and bring long lasting beauty from your garden indoors.  How will you showcase yours?

“A dead hydrangea is as intricate and lovely as one in bloom.”  Toni Morrison

Hydrangeas, 2012

Hydrangeas, 2012, one of my very first oil paintings

Mascarpone Sage and Sundried Tomato-Stuffed Chicken Thighs

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Is it just me or does it not seem like recipes calling for special  ingredients only need some of said ingredient and there is always  a leftover  that just sits in the fridge?  So was the case recently with half a tub of mascarpone cheese, unneeded, unloved. Just coming home from a vacation in foodie Asheville, NC, with no time for grocery shopping, I went looking to create an inspired meal from what I had on hand, my favorite kind of cooking!   Taking that lonely mascarpone, seasoning it with garlic, cutting fresh sage from the garden and adding sundried tomatoes from the pantry to  chicken thighs from the freezer, we had a terrific tasty dinner in about a half hour. Adding  whole wheat rotini and a side of heirloom cherry tomatoes balanced this Italian inspired meal.  It sure wasn’t Asheville, but it was pretty good!image Continue reading

Pumpkin, Sage and Sausage Rigatoni

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Enticingly aromatic when served straight from the oven,  with a golden au-gratin top, this pumpkin, sage and sausage rigatoni is a wonderful rustic fall dinner dish.   Pumpkin is one of those super foods boosting our immunity and this casserole serves up a big dose.   The rigatoni is enveloped in  a creamy, velvety custard made from the pumpkin purée, milk, mascarpone, egg yolk and grated cheeses seasoned with fall spices.  Simple, make-ahead but oh so good! Continue reading

Spiced Chocolate Maple Leaf Cookies

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When I started blogging, my friend Lynne gave me a handmade cookie cutter in the shape of a maple leaf to celebrate the blog and my Canadian heritage.  I have been waiting for fall to create something with the cookie cutter.  When walking recently in the beautiful Chanticleer gardens near home, I was wishfully admiring the lotus seed pods in the pond.  I was told  the way to the seed pods was through the gardener’s sweet tooth!  So you know who got a basket of these cookies!  Fall themed cookies, perfect for a plantsman and for care packages to my college sons! Continue reading

Roasted Butternut Squash Couscous Salad with Apricots and Mint

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Settle into sweater weather with a scrumptious grain salad bursting with complex layers of flavor and chock full of fantastic texture. It was inspired from the master of interesting  combinations of foods,  Yotam Ottolenghi, the Israeli chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu who is the author of 3 interesting cookbooks and has one of the hottest restaurants in London bearing his name. Although it will seem like the seasonings are odd together and too numerous, trust me on this one.  Ottolenghi knows what he is doing.  Thiis delicious salad will become a favorite.  If you will serve it as a side grain, you can omit the arugula.  Variations would include changing the nuts to hazelnuts, adding pomegranate seeds or toasted sunflower seeds. Continue reading

Pomegranate Molasses and Mustard Grilled Pork Tenderloin

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Grilling pork tenderloin gives it a nice crusty outer layer and leaves the inside moist and succulent.  This marinade introduces great flavoring with fall accents and is transformed into a flavorful glaze by simply reducing it for a few minutes.  Add some rice and a vegetable side and it transforms into a company-worthy meal in no time at all. Continue reading

Fall Window Box

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Fall is my favorite season to decorate.  The rich colors in nature and the bountiful pumpkins, gourds, mums and kales available everywhere just make it so easy to bring fall’s flourishes into your home décor.  When temperatures start to dip a bit, it’s time to start entertaining outside again.  Near our patio table we have a window box that is filled with annuals all summer.  By now the flowers are spent and ready for a refresh.  A no-maintenace window box bursting with fall’s bounty is what I set out to create.    No mums, grasses or kale were used to avoid having to water or deadhead. Continue reading