Oh, Hydrangea

Hydrangea Hydrangeas
Hydrangeas evoke the Hamptons. Photo credit: Musat/iStock/Thinkstock

If there is one flower that reminds me of the Hamptons, it’s the hydrangea.

July is the perfect season for my cobalt blue Nikko variety. They grow ravenously in my yard, and thankfully survive the deer’s rampage throughout the neighborhood. Forget the roses because they have become appetizers for the family of deer that roam my yard, and even the usually hearty geraniums are being nipped down to the stubs. Somehow the proud blue hydrangeas withstand the wet ground and hot afternoons, even as their heavy blossoms weigh them down. I don’t know why the deer avoid their brightly hued buds, but I am grateful. My only disappointment is that they do not carry the perfumed scent of other flowers, but that’s okay because they make up for it with their beauty. I have several bushes growing just outside of my door, and of course I cut many and set them in pretty vases throughout my house. We arrange them in my white and cream-colored collection of American McCoy pottery, large Mason jars and even beach pails when entertaining outside. I have to remember that hydrangeas droop in the mid-afternoon sun right around the hottest point of the day, so when cutting them off the vine I do so early in the morning. I also soak them in the sink with their blossoms facing down in warm water just after cutting them so they soak up the water and last longer. They have hardy thick stems; therefore I crush the ends a bit so they absorb the water better.

Last April, I chaired an event for the nonprofit organization the Flawless Foundation, which helps children with neurodevelopmental challenges. I was honored to become involved with Flawless and help out wherever needed for the annual gala, which was held this year in the historic James Otto Khan Burden Mansion in Manhattan. One of the projects I spearheaded was arranging the flowers for the sit-down dinner accommodating 120 guests.  With the help of my friend, fellow designer and blogger Amy Dragoo of ABCDDESIGNS, I created fifteen tightly-wound bundles of white garden variety roses in clear glass square cubes as centerpieces for the tables. Because the arrangements were relatively simple, Amy and I chose to arrange them in a style called “Hand Tie.”  The elegant ballroom at the Burden Mansion was built at the turn of the century, so although we were working on a tight budget, the flowers needed to be substantial without blocking guests’ views when dining. Celebrity chef David Burke created an exquisite menu for the evening. I quickly realized these flowers needed to be regal. Thankfully, Amy had just returned from Chicago where she completed a Hand Tie class with renowned floral designer Suzanne Cummings. Over the course of the project, Amy taught me this technique of arranging flowers in a spiral formation, and all the while twisting with one hand.  When making these arrangements, the flowers become tightly wound together and the stems swirl in one direction, leaving a beautiful bouquet on top as well as a pretty design of the stems underneath. When we put our flowers in glass containers, the spiraled stems created a lovely look.

After hours of practice I feel ready to take on my hydrangeas. Because of the hearty stems and large buds, hydrangeas are a perfect flower for this technique. Once you have created a spiral with the stems, you must tie the bundle with green floral wire, and instantly a garden flower becomes elegant. I hope you enjoy hydrangeas this summer, whether you plop them in a pretty bucket or spiral the stems or simply soak up their beauty as you pass the many varieties growing in the area. I know they’ll bring you joy this summer.

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