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Hydrangea wreath ... the secret is timing, simplicity.

Time it right, keep it simple. That's the advice of gardener Jan Chastine of Olympia, Washington, when it comes to making hydrangea wreaths. The trick is to harvest the big blooms so that petals stay erect and unshriveled and colors don't change much as they dry. Assembling the wreaths isn't difficult using styrene foam forms and U-shaped floral pins. Both are available at craft and floral supply stores.

Get going this month. Early September is when hydrangea bloom peaks. For flowers in summer's bright blue and rose shades, cut just after that peak. If you wait until evening temperatures dip down briefly to the frost level, the petals will take on a greenish and bronzy, sometimes even cranberry, color. But flowers exposed to too much cold turn brown.

Cut flowers with their stems. Strip off the leaves and hang upside-down in bunches in a cool, dark, dry place until the stems are brittle and snap in two easily. Drying takes about a month.

Making the wreath

Mrs. Chastine first selects blossoms with the colors she likes. She uses the good parts of damaged blooms to line the inside of the wreath form, pushing each flower cluster close to the next one and pinning it in place where the petals begin to branch out. She repeats this process in the middle of the wreath (covering about a quarter of the form), using whole blossoms and pieces to fill in. She covers the outside edge of the form as she moves around.
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Date:Sep 1, 1991
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