How To Dry Hydrangeas by Vicki and Brigid of The Woodland Atelier

It was a beautiful, crisp Cornish morning in Autumn. We arrived at stunning Polpier house ready to harvest some of their wonderful hydrangeas from the garden for drying to create an arrangement for the chiffonier top in the drawing room.  If you would like to do the same with your own hydrangeas for your own home, just follow our steps.

You will want a lovely, dry day for searching for the best blooms. When the petals are not covered with rain, you will have a head start on the drying process. It is also a more enjoyable experience for you and means you do not hurry when looking for the perfect specimens. Take the time to think about how your selection will affect the overall plant – you will want to leave it with a good shape so you can continue enjoying it in the garden.

Using sharp secateurs to cut the woody stems, preferably  on the slant so they absorb water more quickly. The blooms should have nice long stems so you are keeping your options open on how you use them for arrangements or decorations. You can put them immediately in a pail with water, but, because they are robust, just laying them flat and carrying as bunches is also fine.

Once you get them home, strip all the leaves from the stems because the leaves dry to an unattractive brown and it will make it easier when you use in arrangements. That is why professional florists strip leaves from flower stems and add foliage separately to make a hand tied bouquet.

Then place the blooms, not too crowded to allow air circulation, in containers with a few inches of water. The water will give them a drink to get them in peak condition before they start to dry. The hydrangeas can then be left in a warm room (or warm dark room if you have it) to dry naturally over a few days. When the water has evaporated, the drying process is completed. Your dried hydrangeas will last for years in a normal, damp free, household environment although the colour will fade if they are placed in a sunny spot.

Now the fun begins. Experiment with different varieties and colours to suit your interior design. There are endless possibilities from simply arranging a few dried hydrangeas in a vase or jam jar, to creating wreaths or table centre pieces as more elaborate seasonal decorations with dried pine cones, seed and poppy heads, and grasses. As the seasons change and your garden comes back to life, you can also combine them with fresh flowers and  greenery, for example dried hydrangeas  look stunning with roses and eucalyptus. It is best practice to put enough water in the vase to look after the fresh stems but keep the dried stems shy of the water. The use of plenty of foliage will disguise this.


Contact: Victoria Bampfield-Hammond
Brigid de Courcy
Tel: 01872 572455 / 07859066450

How To Make A Floral Crown

Floral crowns are always popular at weddings, carnivals and festivals and great fun to make during a hen or children’s party. One of our most popular local florists, Jan Chew, showed us just how easy it is to make your own with lovely flowers from our garden.

  1. Decide on the mood, be it romantic, colourful or zany.
  2. Select the foliage and flowers at least two hours and preferably the day before needed so they can have a good drink in a bucket of cold water. Pick plenty as you don’t want to be hunting around for more when making the floral crown.
  3. Cut the stems on the diagonal to have maximum exposure to the water and woody stems should be smashed with a hammer against a wooden board to make it easier for them to absorb the water.
  4. Before starting make sure you have the correct equipment. You will need:
    • Florists’ wire
    • Florists’ stretchy stem tap
    • Narrow coloured ribbon
    • Scissors
  5. Take two lengths of the florists’ wire to fit a head and bind securely together with the stem tape. Wind the stem tape around all of the wire so it will be comfortable on the head.
  6. Cut the flowers and foliage to length, removing any dead leaves, stray stems and buds and, if using roses, the prickles from the stems.
  7. Lay out the flowers in your chosen design, thinking about colour and size with the larger blooms at the front of the floral crown. We had chosen pale pink and raspberry streaked peonies, pink star flowers, white flox, and lavender stems.
  8. Starting at one end of the wire tightly secure each stem with the ribbon, placing different flowers and foliage in your own preferred design. We placed the gorgeously blowsy peonies at the centre to make a focal point for the crown.
  9. When all the wire has been covered with the flowers, twist the end of the wire together, bind with the ribbon and, if wished, tie a bow.
  10. Enjoy trying on your floral crown and then, if needed for a later occasion, store in a cool dark place.

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How to make a Christmas Wreath

Three years ago Elisabeth Anderson combined her life long love of flowers, gardens and design to train as a florist and set up Amamini Flowers. The run up to Christmas is now one of her busiest times, creating beautiful wreaths and decorations for the celebrations as well as giving work shops for those who want to create their own displays.  She has taken time out though to share with us how to make a Christmas wreath.

1) The first step is to either make a wire ring using chicken wire or buy one form a florist supplier. Size is a personal matter, but Elisabeth says, ‘I do think having the door all around the wreath looks better proportionally.’  The wire ring then has to be covered with moss, binding the moss with wire onto the frame.


2) Make assorted posies of your chosen foliage, berries and seed heads. Posies can be all one length or with longer elements within each posy, three to five stems should be enough for each posy.  Elisabeth used blue and Strobus pine, red oak leaves, blue eucalyptus, seeded rose hips and grain seed heads.  She recommends, ‘forage in your garden or the countryside and buy more unusual foliage, berries and seed heads from florists. You need to make at least 34 posies for a 12 inch ring and that is quite a bit of foliage! Look for evergreen ivy and fir type foliage that will last well when cut. Off cuts from your Christmas tree trimmings are a good source too.’  fullsizerender

3) Fix a small loop of sturdy wire to where you want the top of the wreath to be – this is where a ribbon for hanging will be attached. Elisabeth warns, ‘it needs to be very securely held in place, a wreath of moss and foliage is heavy. Then starting where your hanging loop is and in a clockwise direction bind the posies onto the moss frame, overlapping each posy end with another as you go around your wreath thinking about your overall design as you go, this is where creativity and your own personal style comes into play.’

4) Elisabeth wires extra elements to the finished wreaths – below is a selection of three little windfall pomegranates dusted with gold spray. She explains, ‘I like to add elements personal to the client where possible. Cooks often like chilli peppers put into their wreaths or green oranges also look great in a wreath of greens and red details. Flowers can be added in tubes and hidden; I have put red roses for newly married couples. Pheasant feathers are lovely as well for wreaths for the country. When making your own wreath really think about being creative. I am not keen on ribbons and baubles, but there are no rights or wrongs.’


5) Then it just remains to select your choice of coloured ribbon and to hang the wreath. Fortunately, at such a hectic time, they are very low maintenance. ‘I don’t spray foliage with protector,’ says Elisabeth. ‘You can mist wreaths, although I don’t. I have my Autumn wreath happily on my front door now for seven weeks and it looks pretty nice still. Moss keeps things well.’

img_9055Contact Elisabeth Anderson at Amamini Flowers.


Telephone: 07532 169295

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Summer Flower Arrangement

Flowers really make a home and we always have a display to welcome our guests. Now we have been lucky enough to have a private flower arranging lesson from florist Jan Chew and want to pass on all the information and secret tips of the trade. Jan walked around the garden with gardener Peter Thomas and she encouraged him to see it through new eyes. We have a beautiful cutting garden of flowers to use for the houses, but, particularly when it came to foliage, Jan pointed out we have so much more. The best example was her selection of privet – something we just think of as a rather boring hedge – for great greenery. Follow this step by step guide with Peter and you too will be able to create stunning flower displays in the new natural style described by Jan as, ‘flowers looking like they are growing.’

1) Think of the mood of the room you want the arrangement to go in, there may be particular colours or art that you want to reflect. Picture inspiration for flower arrangement

2) Select the container to be used before the flowers and foliage. Some of the contents will need to be two thirds as high as the container, or double the height if it is shallow.

3) Pick your foliage and flowers at least two hours before creating the arrangement and preferably the day before, so everything can have a long drink in a bucket of water.

4) Make sure you pick plenty of foliage and flowers, as you do not want to be going back to find more. Foliage and flowers with woody stems should be placed on a wooden board and smashed at the bottom with a hammer before putting in water to enable them to drink more.

5) Before starting the arrangement, make sure you have all your equipment ready. We had oasis, florists’ sticky tape, scissors and secateurs.

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6) The oasis holds the stems in place and also provides extra water. After cutting it to size, soak in the sink and then put in the container, holding it in place with sticky florist tape.

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7) A drop of bleach or flower food should also be put in the water to keep the arrangement fresh for longer.

8) Start by putting in the foliage at the back of the arrangement. We used privet, griselina and pittosporum from around the garden.


9) Before placing each individual stem in, it should be neatly cut on a downward diagonal to making it easier to absorb water.


10) Damaged leaves should be removed and any stray leaves and stems which are along the central stem which is going into the oasis.

11) After putting in foliage at the back and around the sides, stand back and assess how they the arrangement is coming together. Think about, colour, texture, harmony and space – both in the arrangement and around it.


12) When you are happy with the basic shape, prepare your main flowers as before. Jan provided tall, sweet smelling stocks, and Peter also used Coral Charm peonies and Ali Baba roses from around the front lawn and Maxima Festiva peonies from the cutting garden. The roses also had their prickles cut off and the peony leaves which were removed were saved for filling in the arrangement – nothing is wasted. Two extra tips with peonies are to give them a shake to get rid of any ants attracted by the sticky sepals that cover the peony bud and to knock any closed bud against a hard surface to encourage it to open.

13) Continue building up the arrangement until you are happy with it. Remember it needs to be pleasing to you most of all, as Jan points out, ‘everyone will see an arrangement differently.’

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14) When you have finished, take a moment to admire your work. Peter was thrilled with his arrangement and is looking forward to creating more for our guests.


Jan is happy to give private lessons for guests staying at Polpier and Penpol, whether on general flower arranging or wedding and party flowers.

Tel: 01208 832060