Here’s your tip for bringing the outdoors in for entertaining. You may want to bring in the season simply for your own personal enjoyment. Be savvy and pluck stems from your landscape for an instant focal point for the table or powder room. There is no need purchase cut botanicals at the store, at least not all of the stems. Horticulture of any sort can be beautiful and your selections do not have to be flowering. Great foliage like oakleaf hydrangea, hosta, and my favorite – variegated Soloman’s Seal, work great for bringing in the green. I attended a lecture at the Antique and Garden Show a few years back when Dutch Master Florist Remco van Vliet spoke about floral arranging and conditioning flowers for longevity. Loving hydrangeas as I do, I took notes on his process. I have used the recommendations many times with success. This is what I’ve remembered and practiced for hydrangeas, and most every other stem: if cutting in the heat of summer collect them in the cool of the morning. Bring your water bucket out to the garden so there is little time between cutting and submerging. Strip the leaves off the stem, at least the ones that will ultimately be below the water line in the vase. Use extremely hot water (for hydrangeas). This opens the capillaries in the stem making the water uptake more effective. For all botanicals, cut the stems on the diagonal as this gives more surface for the stem to uptake water. Place damp paper towels on the heads of the flowers to help them stay hydrated through this process. After 45 minutes, change the water to cool and add a floral fresh conditioner. Arrange as desired. Change the water every couple of days to increase longevity. For any horticulture, it is a good idea to have no leaves in the water unless you are wrapping the stems with a cut hosta leaf or other interesting foliage in a transparent vase for decoration. For hydrangeas, on occasion I will have a stem that does not hold up and for no apparent reason. Oh, well, don’t worry about it. And a tip for that hosta and Soloman’s Seal, keep the leaves nice in the landscape by applying slug and snail killer every month, beginning early in the season.