A. All types of hydrangea (and many other plants) produce flowers that can be attractive and long lasting in dried arrangements when properly prepared. To preserve hydrangeas, cut them just before they reach their peak of size and color and before they show any sign of browning. Hang the flower heads singly or in loose bunches in a dark, dry, warm area — such as an attic — where air circulates freely. The darker and faster they dry, the better their color will be preserved.
If you are adventurous, you might want to try other drying methods such as silica gel or even the microwave. I’ve personally had success simply letting the flower heads dry out in the vase after enjoying them in a summer bouquet. It makes me feel good to use preserved flowers I’ve grown myself as a natural alternative to the silk ones that are becoming so commonly available today.
Q. Our lawn looks really unhappy after the summer. What should we do? — T.E., Yarmouth, ME
A. Early autumn is the best time to renew lawns in New England. Weed seeds also tend to germinate less profusely now, so the grasses fill in more readily and with fewer chemicals. Cooler fall weather, combined with adequate moisture, helps ensure that grasses become well established before snow flies and dormancy sets in. This is a good time to check for insects and take preventive measures.
Fundamental to a strong lawn is a healthy grass root system. Whether you sod or seed, soil preparation, fertility, and pH are of prime importance. Many types of grass are available, and the choices can be confusing. You can be assured that formulations offered by reputable retailers in your town will be successful. Ask for lawn advice at your local garden center; staff members can make specific recommendations for your needs.