I always feel better these last few weeks of February. I feel like I’ve turned some seasonal corner, when my Hellebore have finally jumped all the way up and out of the ground and soon will start showing off! In late winter only the truly fearless of flowers dare to bloom. Witch Hazel, snowdrops and pussy willows have dared to show their colors here in my garden of benign neglect.
But I love forsythia and to me, they really are the one plant that says “It’s spring!” My grandmother would have forsythia branches in full bloom at her table every Sunday all winter long. I think of her every time I head out into the frozen tundra to cut some more branches to bring in to force.
I can usually cut the branches from late December into early March and they will bloom in just a few weeks. Forcing dormant branches is a leap of faith for sure. They look dead when you first bring them in and arranging them in a vase can be frustrating because they just look dead! But have faith and persist because the flowers are there, just waiting for the warmth and light your windows and house will provide!
Here’s my secret to replicating my grandmother’s Sunday centerpieces:
No matter how much snow or how low the temperature, I go out with my trusty sharp pruners and gather my harvest. I try to choose branches of varying lengths and shapes for the best effect in my vase. Once you’ve come back inside and defrosted yourself, make a great cup of tea and congratulate yourself on getting the hard part done!
Now comes the fun, creative part; Be creative and cut the branches to bouquet lengths. Now for the fun, smash the ends with a hammer! I’m not kidding here! Smashing the stems of woody branches open up all the “arteries” and allow water to get sucked up much quicker than just a simple cut alone. “Arrange” the dead looking, smashed stem branches in a vase with some warm water. Now just sit back and wait.
Because I find winter so long and boring, I’m prone to wander a bit when I’m outside cutting forsythia. That wandering has led me to prune some other spring flowering shrubs to add to my forsythia bouquets. I love the colors and fragrance of some of my crab apple and quince bushes. The spring portrait they create with the yellow back ground of forsythia is amazing! Fair warning though, cut with some judicious caution as you still want to leave enough branches on your apples, quince and honeysuckle to be able to enjoy them when they naturally bloom in the spring! Forsythia are usually so thick and full that even when I cut all winter long, I still get a full lush yellow bloom on the shrub every April.
And here is a list of other branches that will give you early indoor color.
Forsythia. 2-3 weeks to bloom.
Honeysuckle Bush. 2 weeks to bloom.
Crab Apple. 3 weeks to bloom.
Flowering Cherry. 2-4 weeks to bloom.
Flowering Quince. 4 weeks to bloom.
Willow.; 2 weeks to bloom.
Red Maple. 2 weeks to leafy splendor.
Apple. 2-3 weeks to bloom.
Flowering Dogwood. 3 weeks to bloom.
Forsythia is pure joy. There is not an ounce, not a glimmer of sadness or even knowledge in forsythia. Pure, undiluted, untouched joy.
— Anne Morrow Lindbergh
If I were you, I’d go collect an armful of “dead” twigs today.
Michelle and Team Lakeview