When Hops Attack
Each year, the summer ends with our crazy hop vines trying to swallow the house.
The hop vines – we believe they are Nugget Hops (Humulus lupulus ‘Nugget’) – spring out of their dense root network in the south flowerbed and race for the sky using our house and everything in the flowerbed as a support.
It’s chaotic and messy and we love it. We prop long bamboo stakes against the house for the hops to climb on.
This plant does everything fast. It grows up to 30 feet in one season. Then in late summer, it produces clusters of insignificant flowers which very rapidly develop into pretty, soft green cones. The cones then quickly dry to a golden brown.
And since it attempts to eat our kitchen window every summer, I often get to see this process close up.
Isn’t this plant pretty, even when it’s a monster? In fall, it’s always fun to pull the stakes down and harvest the cones.
The Hoppy Possibilities
We usually give the cones to people who brew their own beer. And we always find someone who wants them. But the cones are so pretty that this year I decided to keep them.
Some cones grow in dense, compact clusters while others grow in longer, more loosely-spaced clusters. This variety makes them great for use in all kinds of floral arrangements.
I started by separating the cones from the vines and sorting the longer pieces into one container, and the more compact clusters into another.
Then I bundled the longer pieces and hung them in the greenhouse to dry.
At some point, I will use them in floral arrangements as a trailing feature. If the leaves don’t dry attractively, I will remove them and just keep the cones.
The hops have a unique aroma. They don’t smell bad, but still I’m hoping that aroma will mellow a bit after they dry.
An Oktoberfest Wreath
I decided to make a wreath with the compact clusters.
I used a wreath frame and then just wired bundles of cones to it, using pretty much the same method as when I made this Christmas wreath. I cut away the larger leaves and left the small ones.
Some of the cones I harvested were already turning golden brown, but I just love the look of the soft green so I used mostly the green cones.
This look will only last a short time and then the entire wreath will turn golden brown. I considered adding other natural elements, maybe more color, but fall wreaths can turn gaudy pretty quickly, and in the end I loved the simplicity of using only these pretty hop cones.
I wasn’t sure how long the wreath would look good or whether the hop cones would stay on the wreath or start falling off. But so far so good. Here is what the wreath looks like three weeks later.
Trivia question: What do hops and old-world architecture have in common? Check out Peggy Wendel’s interesting post to find out!
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