Oakleaf hydrangeas are especially versatile. They make good specimen shrubs, planted individually to dramatize their beauty over the seasons. They are also handsome massed along property borders, their showy flowers standing out during the weeks of mid-summer when many other plants are exhausted. They blend well in a natural setting as understory shrubs in a woodland area where they brighten the shade. They make good neighbors for rhododendrons and azaleas, extending the spring flowering season.
Cut fresh oakleaf hydrangea blossoms for indoor display in the early morning. Split the cut ends of the stems vertically up about 2 inches with pruners or a knife to promote their uptake of water. Remove all leaves low on the stems that might foul the water in their container. Put them in warm water immediately and let them sit for a few hours. Then arrange them in a vase with water and a commercial floral preservative or an equal volume of a citrus-based, non-diet carbonated soda to help preserve freshness. Fresh oakleaf hydrangea blossoms combine well with lilies, kousa dogwood, late blooming azaleas and roses.
Hydrangea blossoms make excellent dried flowers. Allow them to dry on the stem, rather than try to dry them yourself. Choose those that have already begun to fade and bring them indoors for use in dried arrangements and wreaths. The longer you wait to cut them from the shrub the deeper the rose tinge is likely to be, so pick some early and leave some to dry more before you pick again. This will give you a mixture of lovely cream and pinkish shades. Display them in bouquets or in wreaths alone or combined with other dried flowers. To prevent their falling apart, spray them with some hairspray. Be sure blooms are completely dry before pulling off individual florets for pressing, or they will become moldy.
For more information see Drying Flowers and Flower Drying Supplies
Even though oakleaf hydrangea shrubs lose their leaves in the fall, they are still attractive. Their handsome peeling bark is revealed in full view and their dried flowerheads persist on the plant. They add some beauty to the bleak winter landscape.