entertainingFood & Drinkoutdoorweeders digest

weeder’s digest: simple hydrangea arrangement

by Grace Bonney

Today I would like to talk about making a little flower arrangement for your home. You know, something simple. Because you cleaned the apartment…or, you meant to. Because you went to the dentist. Sometimes I just want to make my friends jealous, as in, “Wha? Oh, the flowers. No, I just picked those up the other day after my appointment with my colorist. Huh? Yeah, I’m getting my color assessed. Oh, haha…no, she’s not taking new clients.” Whatev’s. Point here is that a little flower goes a long way towards making you feel like a classy broad. And the truth is you deserve that.

In the days before Saipua I would buy individual stems from a lovely shop around the corner for me. It’s where I found my first hydrangea, an “Antique Hydrangea” to be specific. One of my very favorite things. No two are alike. Unusual, mottled coloring. Spots on some. Each flower head is approximately the size of a softball, so they fill a vase quite nicely. And they dry well, meaning you can hoard them forever and ever.

Last week I found myself with a shop full of Pepto-Bismol pink flowers. Mystified, I went about sourcing vessels and filler material that would dampen the pink impact. I cut some pieces from a hibernating cedar tree outside, and pulled a rust colored tea canister down from the shelf. Voila! An unlikely match for bright pink flowers, but then again, color can be such an illusive thing. You sometimes won’t know how two colors will react to each other until you put them side-by-side.

Here’s what my little arrangement needs: 1 hydrangea ($10-15) 3 ranunculus ($2-3/each) some clippings from an evergreen tree (cedar in this case, but juniper would be nice as well). Hydrangeas need a lot of hydrating. To promote water uptake, I usually make a slice in the bottom of the stem with a sharp knife. (Misting the big flower head with water also helps to keep them fresh.) To prep the ranunculus, cut away the buds that stem from the side of the main flower – I find it’s easier to manipulate the small buds separately. Then “thread” the ranunculus and buds down through the top of the hydrangea flower head, varying the height of each bloom and bud. When you’ve got it looking good, go ahead and grab that dark green evergreen you snagged from the yard and “cuff” it around your handheld bouquet. Last, cut all the stems even and sink them down in your vessel. If it needs it, use a rubber band to keep the stems in place, then place the bouquet in your vase.

Remember; put the flowers away from the heat and out of the sun. Change the water everyday if you can. Next week we’ll do Valentines Day for all you players (or haters).

And lastly, take a minute to think about your succulents; I’m so concerned about them! When I suggested last week we all bring our plants to the shower I should have clarified! You don’t just shower with anyone. Or any plant.

If you water your succulents once or twice a month and allow them to get completely bone dry in between watering, then a quick shower is great for moistening the soil and cleaning the dust off all the surfaces. Weekly watering is too much for succulents. Root rot is the most common way people kill plants – and it comes from over watering. Any other questions I’ll try to answer in the comments section.

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  • great advice and beautiful arrangement. simple and perfect!

    re: succulent advice. not a cactii question but jade and i;m not sure how to classify?
    am having problems with a jade plant that used to do awesome and is now just stilted. nothing has really changed and was a afraid i was over water and now i sort of ignore and there is no yellowing, but no happy either.

    maybe some fertilizer, i.e., soil is now dull or??

    thanks for any wisdom you can through my way. your flowers are completely inspirational!!

  • How talented you are…I have tried flower arranging and mine end up looking just awful.

    You do such nice work, it is beautiful.

  • I LOVE this article/feature. Informative, great advice, and FUNNY. I learned something while laughing. Now, I’m off to shower with my succuluents. :)

  • Gorgeous! I absolutely adore hydrangeas! They’re kind of an old lady flower, but I don’t care.

    I do have a question about a house plant of mine — it’s a snake plant, which is supposed to be really easy to grow. Mine started looking droopy a few months ago, so I thought I’d been overwatering it and started giving it water less frequently. Now it’s looking worse! Am I underwatering it?

    I really don’t want to kill this plant, especially since I rescued it from the trash years ago!

  • Oh succulents, how they hate me. My dad has that instinctive knowledge about them and how to make them happy, it is evidently not genetic

  • Great tip re the slice in the bottom of the stem! and maybe I should get more picky about the succulents I shower with. Do I need to start going to meetings for SSA (succulents showering anonymous)?

  • so, do i have to take a cold shower with my plants? i’m assuming steamy would be not so good? don’t know if you covered this. (and now you have everybody showering with their houseplants which is kind of funny if you think about it).
    also, i have a pretty big jasmine that usually gets sulky in the winter and thins out and gets leggy but then in the spring and summer goes outside and fills back out nicely. this yr, however, it’s had lots of leaves dry up and fall. it is in a sunny window but i am irregular when it comes to watering. maybe once a week. any advice? why, thank you.

  • Can you tell us how to turn rotted succulents in to happy succulents? I’ve heard you can get them to re-root?

  • hydrangeas DO last forever! i love picking out flowers at our farmers market in portland, wish it were spring so i can have fresh flowers on the table every week! that arrangement is so lovely :)

  • thanks for the showering advice last week… i took a shower with my clivia this weekend and she perked right up!

  • wow, seems like its not just me who took the plunge and showered with my plants then! I felt like an amazon goddess!

  • This is absolutely beautiful and romantic. Any advice for a girl who has a ton of gardinia plants that are all green and stubbornly refusing to bloom? I am at my wits end. No amount of pampering (and they are pampared) makes them bloom.

  • This column is fantastic! So inspiring. I have one request; I have two cats and I’m always worried about bringing flowers home that may be toxic to them if ingested. Can you recommend beautiful yet pet safe flowers and plants? Thanks!

  • i live in brooklyn and am planning an upstate ny wedding for the end of may. i want to give tiny potted succulents as the favor – not only would they be a nice take-away, but they’ll look pretty on the table too. can you recommend a good vendor for these?

  • Snake plant/Jade plants – may need fertilizing. use an organic food power. Or try mixing some coffee grounds into the top soil. Also a really good fertilizer for these guys is this:

    collect your eggshells in a big glass juice jar and cover them with water for a week (or longer). use this eggshell water on your weak plants. i have a jade that did the same…years it was good and healthy, then got finicky. leaves fell off. i repotted (the soil was almost 10 years old) and treated with eggshell water

    enhabiten – take a warm shower. you don’t want hot water on plants. or just bring them into the bathroom on the floor – most plants will really benefit from a few days in a steamy bathroom.

    as for succulents that have fully died, im not sure if you can re-root – I will look into this…

  • Thank you very much for this demonstration. Came very handy. You always impress me with such a great creativity, congratulations

  • My aunts are landscapers and they LOVE hydrangeas and grow them amazingly huge! Growing up, I wasn’t a huge fan of them…i thought they were too old-school. But as I’ve gotten older, I want them everywhere…in my garden, in my house, in my wedding….everywhere. Thanks for the post and reminding me of my childhood.

  • Really loving “Weeder’s Digest” — the content is inspirational and helpful, and I VERY MUCH enjoy Sarah’s writing.

    One small thing: Does D*S have an editor? Perhaps you could get an editorial wintern? I realize D*S has a casual, vernacular voice — and I like that voice. But the blog would be so much better with a little more attention paid to spelling, punctuation, proper word use, grammar, etc…

    (Just one quick example from this post: illusive = elusive)

    I wouldn’t say this if I thought you were doing this solo, at night after your day job… Thanks for listening.

  • Hi !
    I am sakura from Tokyo , Japan .
    I LOVE your blog, everything is so fantastic !
    As a reader of your blog, I must tell you how much I enjoy it.
    You’re on my daily list!
    Thanks for giving me so much inspiration!

  • Great instructions on a beautiful flower arrangement. Okay, so about succulents, once or twice a month? I thought it was once a week? Ack! So I’m thinking of having succulents as part of the arrangements for my wedding and I’m thinking that I can grow them myself and arrange them myself. Ambitious, yes. Anyway, any advice on succulents is welcome! Keep up the lovely posts, they are great.

  • What a pretty start to the last day of the week! I have always adored hydrangeas so thank you. A recent series of photographs by New Zealand photographer Derek Henderson has some amazing shots of hydrangeas & really captures their colour gradations and lovely full forms.

  • I love Love LOVE your posts!
    They’re so well presented and highly infomative – especially for this floral novice

  • Sublime, I adored it!! perfect simplicity. Thanks for all the posts and news, I’ve become a fun the moment I stumbled on the blog.

  • I don’t really do flowers (my thing is herbs and plants you can cook with), but this feature always cracks me up and informs me, so I can’t skip over it.

  • i love your posts– am learning so much from them.

    i need to know more about succulents (is jade included?). in an attempt to mimic a dry, hot environment, i keep my succulents on radiators below a window (from where they get direct winter light) and spray them with mildly soapy water (to combat mildew– i heard to do it with delicate flowers, like orchids, but figured it couldn’t hurt). they seem to enjoy it, but is this okay?

    and re: showers for succulents, i have been keeping an aloe and jade in my bathroom, which becomes a humidor during showertime, but doesn’t get any light. they seem to be doing okay (bright green & plump), but the jade has developed some tiny white spots on the leaves (mildew?). should i return them to a room with a light source?

  • Hi,
    Your arrangements are wonderful for their freedom and spirit, such inspiration. Thanks for the suggestion on hydrangas, I have wondered which ones had that antique look.

    I live where succulents are part of our landscape outside, and over the years they have taught me a few things. Mostly that they can get sunburned (!!!). This means they spend summers under spreading trees, umbrellas, etc., out of direct sunlight. I also notice that they LOVE hot+ humid+glare. In the heat and indirect sunlight, they seem to grow quickly when they get watered. It’s the drainage that is important to my team. My jade plants can get rubbery or loose their leaves, but here it means: too much heat and not enough spritzing with the hose, or soaking the roots a few times a month. Many of my succulents come from coastal locations, where it is foggy but glaring, and not dry or sunny (save that for more hearty cactii).
    note: if you love succulents and cactii, don’t miss the big garden at the Huntington Library if you are in L.A..

  • I LOVE this addition to D*S. I have followed your work for a few years now. You are kind of my hero! LOL, is that lame? Really, your site is a true inspiration to me as an aspiring floral designer.

    I have some succulents that I think I over watered. The roots are actually growing up out of the soil and look rotted. One fell off and I just stuck it back in to the soil and it re-rooted. I am thinking I should just clip them all and re pot.

    next question- if you were to use succulents in a bridal bouquet, how would you wire them? They don’t have stems and can be pretty fragile…well at least mine are because I am not very good at growing them…a demo on this would be much appreciated.


  • I have always had a Black Thumb of Death. I’m a plant murderer! It’s terrible. I don’t mean to, but then…it just happens. It’s because they don’t speak up, and by the time I remember to ask them how they are…it’s too late. Sorry, dead planties! But your column is making me feel like I could do it, maybe. Or at least wanting to do it…you know, be a good plant mom. Maybe sometime you could do a column for dolts like me? Pretty please?

  • Oh Oh Oh… I’m not all that into flower arranging but you make it so interesting and irresistible! What an unexpected combination, faded hot pink with rust with evergreen? It looks beautiful. And you are so funny. Looking forward to reading your posts in the future.

  • Ok- It’s not a succulent question but I need help…I’m a pretty good maintainer of my houseplants except for one. I have a Maiden Hair Fern that is THE most cantankerous, finicky, semi-suicidal plant I have ever had. It’s been hanging by a thread for a few months now and I have no idea how to make it happy. I have it in a low-light area and keep the soil moist but not too moist. I have made the mistake of cutting off the dead bits and it dies of even more when I do that. Help!
    P.s. This column and your blog rock my world.

  • What a wonderful arrangement!

    Hydrangeas are one of my favourite flowers; they grow in the humid parts of Portugal but we can´t seem to find them for sale at florists…

    I love this new flower feature! It’s great to be able to learn about the ‘gentle arts’ online… that’s truly tardition with a twist.

    Keep up the excellent work!

  • I love this new column! Can you do one on making a bouquet? I might tempt to make my own and would really appreciate any advice! : )

  • I just came upon your site and love,love your flower arrangements. It’s one of those things I love to dabble in. Also, love your sense of humor. Thanks for sharing!!

  • A month ago I have planted a new cedar tree. This is about 2 feet tall. Now it appears the leaves changing to black color from the bottom and gradually going up. I am wondering if it is over watering the tree or else. My question is how can I save the tree and make it re-root?

  • I know cedar tree is a slow growing tree, but don’t know how long it takes a 2 feet tall tree growth up to 5 feet tall. I saw the label that sticked on the tree when I brought it, it said this tree will be 2.5 wide and 13 feet tall