Transplant Shock

The decorations were simple because there was no way to
improve upon that view!

When Jess and Thomas married in April, David and I purchased 6 potted “grocery” hydrangeas for their ceremony.

They weren’t terribly expensive, but I wanted to put that investment to work after the wedding too. Since we were about to expand our back deck and redo all the flower beds, I decided to save money and plant these after the wedding. I’d also move my struggling hydrangeas at the back of our property up to the new beds so they could be watered regularly by the soaker hoses. (God has done a great job of keeping them wet for me this year, but most summers they are neglected. Water is heavy, Tennessee is hot, mosquitoes are prolific, and I’m whine-y!)

Knowing I’d need to acclimate the potted plants to the outdoors but uncertain how to do it, I went to my trusty internet for advice. Grocery hydrangeas are genetically identical to the Penny Mac hydrangeas struggling in my backyard, but they have been shocked into making one huge display of blooms. They rarely survive beyond that first bloom.

Acclimating hydrangeas before planting.

Call me “stubborn”–I decided to give my plan a try anyway. It wouldn’t cost me anything if I failed, and it had the potential to save me hundreds of dollars if it worked. I set the plants on the deck where they were shaded by a tree but close enough to the back door that I wouldn’t forget to water them. After a few weeks, they’d adjusted to the heat and were ready to go into the ground just as soon as the deck was finished in early June.

It’s late July (not the good kind), and we still have our small deck. That means the grocery hydrangeas haven’t been planted. Tiny pots, summer heat, and the neighborhood cats worked together in the last 2 months to kill all the old blooms and most of the leaves; but I’ve kept watering the sticks and soil in spite of David’s sideways glances at me.

I am desperate to see these plants survive and thrive because they have come to represent my life. God is pulling David’s and my roots out of the fertile Tennessee foothills and transplanting us to the mile-high Denver desert. We’re leaving behind the beautiful, fulfilling life we’ve cultivated with all of our family and friends over the last 8 years; we’re entering a land without the spiritual and emotional nourishment to which we’ve grown accustomed.

This weekend David and I spent hours in the yard getting the property ready for our coming renters. If these hydrangeas do symbolize our life, then I am encouraged. About a week ago, tiny new leaves appeared on all 6 plants. One even has a bloom. The hydrangeas are now in the ground around the old deck (which is soon to become the “freshly-stained old deck”), and they already look happier. Only time will tell if they–and we–thrive after our transplant shock.

Just as I had plans for those plants, God has plans for us in Denver. I hope the hydrangeas will enhance our property as the earth nourishes them, and I pray that we will bless Denver as our new home provides a new life with new opportunities.

Preserving Special Flowers

From the top of the grandkids’ arrangement.

When my mother was a child, her grandfather gave her a copy of Gone with the Wind. The book. I’m sure it was beautiful when it was new, but I’ve always known it to have a worn, faded green cover and a spine held on with bright red tape. I never considered opening it; I assumed the book wouldn’t sustain another reader.

Hidden inside the pages is a pressed flower. When my great-grandfather died, Mama took a white carnation from a funeral arrangement and pressed it inside the book. The flower looks about the same today as it did when she pressed it 30 years ago.

When my own grandmother died 3 years ago, we grandkids bought the tackiest funeral arrangement you could imagine. Granny would have LOVED it. It was full of birds of paradise and golden curly-cues. It looked like a fireworks display. When the family returned to view her grave after the burial, I got the wild idea that I would preserve some flowers for each family member as my mother had. Somehow taking those flowers with me made leaving the site easier.

This fabric softener left behind a pleasant
lavender scent.

I tend to have a where-there’s-a-will-there’s-a-way attitude about life, and I am enabled by Google’s search engine. I had never pressed flowers before, so I had to do a lot of research. (Seriously, what did people do before all this information was at their fingertips?)

There are basically 5 steps to drying flowers:

  1. Pick flowers that don’t have thick stems. Birds of Paradise are not good choices for a first-timer. (I learned that the hard way.) Lilies are.
  2. Make a solution of glycerin-based fabric softener and water. Coat the petals of each flower.
  3. Hang in a dark, cool, dry space for a couple of days until the softener has completely dried.
  4. Arrange the flower on a piece of parchment paper, fold the parchment over the top of the flower, and close inside a book.
  5. Add as much weight to the top of the book as possible.
This herb dryer, given to me by my mother, is
full of rosemary, basil, thyme, parsley, and the
occasional hot pepper in the summer.

In a couple of months, you should have flat, papery flowers that have retained most of their color. Any flowers with white petals will yellow–I don’t think there’s a way around that. But colorful flowers, such as pink roses, will remain remarkably true-to-life if you dip them in the glycerin solution.

These Stargazer Lilies demonstrate the importance
of dipping the flowers in glycerin before pressing
them. Without the glycerin, none of the pink color
would have survived..

Since I mastered this craft, I’ve pressed flowers from several functions–not all funerals, I’m happy to report! This spring I have commemorated Anna’s and Jess’s weddings. I bought pictures from the wedding photographers and inexpensive glass-on-glass frames. Jess loved the flowers I stole from her bouquet and pressed. Anna’s wedding flowers are still in the press!

Anna’s Cherry Blossoms

I’ve been away from my blog for a while. Please forgive me. As I mentioned in a previous post, Spring 2013 has been remarkably busy. The Haley family married off a brother and a sister! It’s been a season of joy–and incredible fatigue. I’m currently recovering and looking forward to the next 3 months when I’ll be finishing my manuscript for HarperCollins. (Stay tuned for that!)

The biggest project of my spring was Anna’s wedding. I know I’m not the only Haley who is saying this. She and Victor decided to get married at my church, so David and I felt responsible for making it the perfect venue for her. We are blessed with a beautiful home-away-from-home in New Heights Chapel, but any sanctuary can be improved for a wedding, right? If NHC’s sanctuary has any problem, it’s the space next to the windows over the altar. I take it back: the space isn’t a problem; it’s an opportunity!

It took 80 hours to make 5,000 cherry blossoms.

Months before her wedding, Anna had expressed a desire to have an outdoor Spring ceremony. This wasn’t practical for many reasons, but I wanted to give her that feeling even indoors. I found a blog on how to make Cherry Blossom Branches and thought I would super-size the project. It took 2 months but cost only $35 for a large hole-puncher and polyurethane.

I started by ironing  tissue paper and cutting it into 5,000 rounds. Then I took each round and rolled it into a blossom.

It took the trees about 2 hours to dry after I sprayed them
with boat-grade polyurethane.

With David’s help, I cut limbs that ranged from 7′ to 12′ tall off the trees at the back of our property. Then I pruned the limbs, set them out to dry until the leaves fell off, and sprayed them will polyurethane.

Mama graciously loaned us “Sue,” her new Subaru Outback. We laid down the seats, covered them in tarps, and took the limbs to our chapel. There David and I spent a Saturday burning our fingertips with hot glue.

The 5,000 blossoms took about 25 hours to glue onto the tree limbs.

David spent 12 hours helping me glue 5,000 blos-
soms the weekend before Anna’s wedding. What
 a husband! What a brother! What a trooper!

The result was worth the time and trouble. The finished trees were a big hit. Not only was Anna pleased with the sanctuary, but the 3 subsequent brides at NHC asked that the tress remain for their weddings. My labor of love turned into a blessing for many. What more could I ask?