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Hydrangea wreath



Oakleaf Hydrangea leaves


Ornamental Millet



Anne K Moore

Whether your taste runs from bright orange to deep red to subtle beige or the many colors in between, fall is ready for preservation.Drying leaves and flowers is as easy as plucking and plopping or as difficult as picking and pressing.Pluck a flower head with some stem and plop it into a vase, with or without water; or cut off flowers that will lay flat, or almost flat, and press them for floral art.

Hydrangeas look great in floral arrangements, or just toss them into a basket. When you pick hydrangeas for drying, choose fully open flower heads with stiff stems.If the heads tend to flop over, they wonít dry satisfactorily.The best way I have found to dry them is in a vase of water.Cut a bouquet, put it in water, and set the flowers out of direct sun and drafts until they dry.This is a good way to preserve the pink or blue color.Most directions suggest drying flowers by hanging them in a cool place but I have found that a hot attic area dried my hydrangeas quickly and with few losses.

You can also allow the hydrangea blossoms to dry on the plant.Most of them take on that beige hue, so popular in decorating.Just make sure you cut them with short stems, leaving the buds of next yearís flowers on the bush.Leave behind a few flowers on the bushes, too, for the birds.Come winter, when food is scarce, little birds work the seeds out of the heads.If you want to use the short-stemmed blossom heads in an arrangement, just attach floral picks or wire with florists tape to the short stems and arrange them as you wish.

Donít pass up the chance to use ditch flowers.Graceful grass seed heads, golden rod, even seedpods and cones from coneflowers look good in arrangements and are very easy to dry.You can stand them in a vase or wrap the stems of loose bundles with a rubber band and hang them out of sunlight.

You can experiment with small single flowers or leaves by pressing them between paper.Add fern leaves to your drying collection.They make wonderful wall art, glued to a background, covered with glass, and framed.You need not buy expensive flower presses or blotting paper.Just recycle those large telephone books and yellow pages.

The paper pages in phone books are just the right consistency for pulling out moisture.Lay the flowers as flat as you can in a single layer on a page in the middle or three quarters of the way back in the book.If it isnít a large book, just pile some more books on top to make a heavy press.This can be stored anywhere in the house; there are no temperature requirements.Then forget them.

In a few weeks, maybe sooner depending on the flower or leaf, you can carefully pick out your new art collection.Using see-through craft glue for sticking, arrange the flowers in a bouquet on a backing paper you can frame.If you are artistic, draw in stems.If you are art inclined but untalented, use a print of a bouquet and add your dried material on top, making a collage.

Preserve fall flowers now for a pick-me-up during those short days coming all too soon.When winter traps you indoors, you can still appreciate the natural world.Creating something beautiful for your home is almost as much fun as planning next yearís garden.

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