Friday, September 27, 2013

Holiday Prep


I love Autumn.  I hate to see summer go because our wonderful old house, which stays so cool in the summer, becomes an igloo in winter, but there's a saying in French that goes, "C'est toujours la fete." (that first e in fete is supposed to have a circumflex accent, but I don't know how to do it)  Direct translation is, "It's always a party." I take that to mean, "Make the best of everyday." So, though we'll soon be wearing hats and long underwear inside, I'm getting ready for fall and winter.  One of my favorite rituals is drying hydrangeas.

My neighbor has two hydrangea bushes with blooms the size of cabbages on either side of her front porch.  One is blue and one is purple.  If you've never had up-close contact with hydrangea, let me tell you they're amazing.  They begin to change color about the middle of August.  The purple ones take on tinges of lavender, blue, and pink.  The blue ones become green, amber, rose.  If you dry them at the right moment, they'll stay large and bright and last all year - longer, if you're careful. If you wait too long to cut and dry them, they just fade and curl up.

After years of living next door to the flowers (neighbors have come and gone, but the flowers remain, and I'm always sure to ingratiate myself with the newbies in time to be able to pick blooms.  Weirdly, none of the neighbors who've lived next door has ever cared about drying them themselves.)  I've gotten good at choosing the right moment to pick.  I'm a little like a vintner that way.

The point of all this is to tell you I've made a wonderful discovery.  I use to laboriously hang the blooms upside down one by one in the basement and wait a month for them to dry.  This year, I went online to see what others do and found out you can simply cut them, put them in a vase without water, and let them dry that way.   They don't have to live in the basement for a month so you can display them, and they're so little trouble.  They fade just a little, but are still beautiful..

The optimum drying procedure is to put the flower heads in silica gel, but that's pricey stuff and it requires a lot of it.  A woman name Liz Schenk, however, found a less expensive formula using 60% cornmeal and 40% Borax.  Put an inch of the mixture in the bottom of a large plastic garbage container -  cut the stems off the blooms and save to reattach with florist tape - then put a bloom in head first and cover gently with the mixture  She suggests using a sifter.  Repeat with other blooms until the container is full.  They'll take two weeks to dry but their color will be as strong as it was on the bush.  Use a makeup brush to get all the residue out of the flower.

I have a large, fat-bottomed, blue glass vase filled with them on the dining table.  At Christmas time, I tie them with ribbon to a garland that I run up the stairway.  It doesn't look quite like a Sunset Magazine cover, but I think it's gorgeous.

What are you doing to start your holiday season?

14 comments:

  1. What a fun post! My mother makes the most beautiful dried flower creations and Christmas wreaths made entirely of the small pine combs she has me drive her out to fetch at a camp ground by Lake Champlain. When she donates her creates to church raffles, they are the most bid on items and all of us have her beautiful work decorating our home!

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  2. What a wonderful example of your mother's love - and her talent! I love decorations made with natural things. I once had a dear older friend with twisted, arthritic hands who could make the most wonderful pieces equipped only with tiny, tiny things she'd dried, baby ribbon, and a glue gun. I guess the will to do it is everything.

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  3. Muriel, My mother could grow anything. We lived in the Yamhill valley in Oregon and she had beautiful hydrangeas. My dad had a machine shop and mom used the steel shavings around some bushes to make the pink bushes turn blue and/or purple. I never saw the green until I moved to Washington state. I loved the green ones. I used to decorate a lot for every holiday. Not so much since it's just me now. I do have outdoor Halloween decorations, and I have door hangings for Thanksgiving. My Christmas trees keep getting smaller.
    Karen, I love pine cone wreaths. I love the smell of pine, but have allergies that no longer let me have the real thing inside or I can't breathe.
    Oh, but Muriel, you've put us in the mood now.

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    1. Oh, good. I don't have to deal with holiday addiction all by myself. Ron is already looking for a place to hide. When I get into holiday mode, he calls me 'The Jolly Juggernaut.' I've heard the soil has to have something particular in it for the blue flowers, but I didn't know you could affect it the way your mother did. Live and learn!

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  4. Muriel,
    Can you take a picture and show us what a dried hydrangeous looks like? It sounds like so much fun. I haven't picked up a crochet hook in four months. That's my favorite pasttime next to reading and such.

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  5. Hi, Pam! I tried to put one up instead of my face, but I kept getting a 'Sync failing' message. Not sure what I'm doing wrong. If you just Google 'dried hydrangeas' you get many gorgeous pictures. That's what I tried to copy from to my photographs and did something wrong. They're a giant flower head made up of many, many little four-petal clusters. One of natures many gifts to us!

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  6. Hi Muriel!
    My mom and I are not exactly 'gardeners' or knowledgeable when it comes to those things...but to get ready for the season, we have bought a booth at a Christmas craft fair-I'm promoting my holiday titles and she is selling her beautiful Christmas themed diaper cakes:) You can see them at www.anniesbee-utifulcreations.com

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  7. Hi, Jen! I went to the site - what practical things dressed up in such creative packaging! That must be where your talent comes from in a different form. The two of you should be a winning combination at the Christmas fair. I love those things!

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  8. Muriel, my mom's creativity knows no bounds! She's actually a better writer than I am...she just 'misplaced her pen' for a while, when raising a family and providing a wonderful upbringing for my brother and I took priority over her own dreams. Now, she has more free time so she's writing again too. I'm so excited:)

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    1. What does she write? Romance? Mystery? Non-fiction. So we can all be on the lookout.

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  9. Muriel, this mood has started to get me thinking about the holidays. After all, it's less than three months to Christmas! I love hydrangeas too. My cousin used them in her wedding as table centerpieces and they were gorgeous! Great post!

    I used to go all out in decorating for the holidays, but we've downsized to a home that's 1/2 the space which means downsizing our decorations too. The only place where there's room for a Christmas tree (and out of the reach of our pets) is on top of our dining room table so we now have a 3 foot pre-lit tree. I used to decorate for Halloween and Thanksgiving too, but there seems to be less time and less motivation. LOL

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  10. I know what you mean. When there's such to do in everyday life, it's hard to find that extra energy for special things. Ron and I can't stay young, but we're trying really hard not to be old, so I decorate. It helps lighten the atmosphere. I never carve a pumpkin because I love the color and shape and can't stand to cut into it. The grandkids laugh because when they come for Easter, there's usually still a pumpkin somewhere.

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    1. "when there's 'such' to do . . .' I'm abbreviating language. That's a contraction of 'so much.'

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  11. I love hydrangeas, too, though mine wouldn't grow, but I didn't know you could dry them!

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