DRYING HYDRANGEAS WITH SILICA GEL
Most of the hydrangeas in this arrangement have been individually dried in silica gel (the bottom beige ones were not).
Silica gel is not a gel at all. It looks like white sand with blue crystals. One can purchase canisters of Silica Gel Flower Drying Crystals at craft stores such as Michael's.
The method of drying with silica is rather expensive, time consuming and absolutely gorgeous. (See method below for a less expensive alternative).
If you need enough dried hydrangeas for an arrangement or a wreath, dry about twice as many as you think you will need. I say this not because some of the blooms will dry poorly, but because one can never believe how many it will take to make a nice, full arrangement. Also, to fill out the design, consider including small, naturally dried hydrangeas in with the silica dried hydrangeas.
DRYING HYDRANGEAS WITH CORNMEAL AND BORAX
(CAUTION: I have only tried this method once, therefore, I am not an expert on it. My results turned out OK but the flowers didn't look as bright or as natural as they did with the silica. Before trying this technique, please read the notes below)
I received an email from Liz Schenk, who had been reading about drying hydrangeas with silica gel on this site. She wrote that the method she used was far less expensive than using the Silica gel. She was gracious enough to let me publish her email address in case readers have further questions about this technique. Here is what her email said:
"Judith, thanks for the helpful information on your website.
I have moved into an old house which has one shaded west wall that is completely planted with deep fuschia,almost red, hydrangeas. I want to dry as many as possible. I will leave many to mature until August, but I want to quickly dry many of them for their more vivid colors.
Silica gel is way too expensive, as you mentioned. Have you ever used the cornmeal/borax method? It takes a bit longer for the drying, maybe two weeks, but the colors are just as natural as an end result. The solution tends to stick to the blossoms a bit, so I always have to gently brush them with a makeup brush or some other soft brush after I've given them a gentle shaking.
The main advantage to this method is that it's dirt cheap. I can make a really large container, for instance, a dutch oven, a plastic garbage can or a big box, full, and use it over and over, drying seven or eight flower heads at a time. The ratio is, if my memory serves me, 60% cornmeal, 40% borax. If it isn't exact, it always seems to work anyway. Happy drying.
ANOTHER READER DESCRIBES HER SUCCESSFUL EXPERIENCE
NOTE: I get a lot of questions about the Cornmeal Borax method of drying hydrangeas. I have tried this method and it works. However, the results were not as bright and natural looking as they were when I used the silica gel.
I am including another email I received from Nancy in Connecticut who gives a more detailed description of this technique. She says"
" "I did mix the Borax (40%)and white cornmeal (60%) in a plastic 1 gallon pitcher. Once I added the ingredients, I shook the pitcher a few times to mix it up. I first spread a small layer of the mixture on the bottom of a large plastic storage bin. The bottom layer was about 1/2". Then I selected my first flower and held it about 1" from the bottom of the bin, with the flower head pointing downwards.
The next part is easier using two people but you can do it yourself. I poured the mixture from the pitcher into a hand held strainer and began to shake the mixture onto the flower. I placed the flower on top of the bottom layer and continued with the sifting until the flowerhead was completely covered. Then I began the same process until all the flowers were done. I was able to do six large flower heads in the container I selected. Then I placed the lid on the container and draped black garbage bags over the container so no light was allowed to get in. I was supposed to wait 2 weeks before removing them, but I couldn't (LOL) so I removed them after 10 days. I suggest waiting the full 2 weeks; I was foolish to take the risk I did. When removing the flowers, the mixture is slightly heavy, so when lifting them out, do so gently. Then gently shake them to remove the excess powder. The article suggested using a small brush to lift off any particles left behind, but I didn't need to.
I forgot to mention that after you select your first flower you need to remove the leaves,( I left them on but they didn't do too well) and cut the stem of the flower the length that will allow you to put the cover on. The remaining half of the stem I placed around the edges of the container and covered them with the mixture. After I removed them, I simply reattached the stems to the existing halfs with green florist tape. I have to tell you I was so excited to see that they preserved so well. They make such a beautiful accent to our living room. Thanks again for your tips.
Notes: Following are two experiences reported by others who have tried this method - one bad, one successful.
(1) I have received word from one person who read the instructions above, tried the Borax technique herself, and had disasterous results. She says "The hydrangeas turned brown and looked horrible."
(2) Later, I heard from Karen who said, "I had to write and give you another outcome of using the cornmeal and borax method of drying hydrangeas. Mine turned out lovely! They look like they are suspended in life. I used white cornmeal with the borax (versus yellow cornmeal), and I have the big dish-sized, blue flowers. I also tried this method on my neighbor's smaller, red flowers, and hers turned out beautiful, too. We live in Seattle, and we harvested in October. Thanks for the tips!" (The picture on the right is of the hydrangeas Karen dried in Borax and cornmeal - all except the one in the bucket on the far right which was air dried)
I wish I could explain these differences. It could be that the borax mixture easily absorbs moisture from the air. Be sure to use products that are fresh and have recently been opened.
If you have tried this method, please let me know the outcome, and I will tell the rest of the world. It seems to have great promise. - JK
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