Bring Budding Branches Indoors For An Early Glimpse Of Spring

Can’t wait for spring? Use these tricks for an early glimpse of the season.

Saucer magnolia, winter honeysuckle, cherry, flowering quince, forsythia.
(Clockwise from top center) Saucer magnolia, winter honeysuckle, cherry, flowering quince, forsythia. Photo:

photographs by ROBBIE CAPONETTO; Styling by Buffy Hargett Miller

Once the holiday joy of the winter season comes to a close, so many of us are ready for the next, itching for spring. We’re all too eager, not necessarily for April’s showers, but definitely for May’s flowers. However, with spring still out of reach, that’s far too long to wait for our highly-anticipated florals. To speed up the process, head out to your dwindling winter garden, and bring bits of it back inside. Here’s how to turn barely-budding branches into enticing arrangements to tide you over until spring.

Coax Blooms

To make the flowers show up ahead of schedule, start by cutting any non-essential branches from the plant when the buds are just starting to swell. Each stem should be trimmed at a steep angle to enable it to soak up as much water as possible. Once they’re placed in a water-filled vessel, put them in a sunny window that’s not too close to a heating vent. Then wait it out. It could take anywhere from one to four weeks for flowers to appear, though you’ll likely start to see some color around the 10-day mark.

Stem display
The stems make a wonderful display even after the flowers have run their course.

photographs by ROBBIE CAPONETTO; Styling by Buffy Hargett Miller

Make A Scene

Cut branches create a stunning vignette when they’re grouped together. Start by selecting a variety of vases, each ideally with a mouth no larger than 6 inches in diameter to keep things from shifting after placement. Choose a stem that has a curved form or interesting shape, and let that set the tone for each display. For vases with smaller mouths, you can arrange branches in your hand before placing them in the vessels. Wide, low-lying containers aren’t out of the question, but look for stems that have blooms primarily on one side to make the balancing act work well.

Schedule For Success

Timing is everything. If you’re planning to bring some stems indoors, start checking for buds a month before their bloom window and remember that the exact flowering date will vary depending on your planting zone.

January to March: forsythia
January to April:
flowering quince, winter honeysuckle, witch hazel
February to April:
saucer magnolia
March to May:
Eastern redbud, cherry

If you don’t have these flowering trees and shrubs in your yard (and aren’t blessed with a neighbor willing to share), plant one that suits your space and growing zone. Or you can buy branches from a wholesale florist; they should be available from late winter until early spring.

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