A VASE OF GLOWING, GOLDEN FORSYTHIA is just the thing to cure the winter doldrums. You can cut the stems in January (or even December, as I sometimes do), and they will bloom for you just 2 or 3 weeks later. Of course, the twigs will appear dead at first. But the flowers are there, just waiting for the warmth and light your windows can provide. My tips for forcing and arranging the stems of this friendly shrub:
No matter how frigid the weather might be, go out with sharp pruners and gather forsythia bouquets. I clip mine from the big shrub in my front yard (above), even when the branches are caked with ice. Choose branches of varying lengths and shapes for the best sculptural effect.
And by the way, forsythia is named for William Forsyth (1737-1804). He discovered the shrub while on a plant-hunting mission in China.
It warms my heart to know that you appreciate such trivia.
Indoors, cut the stems to attractive bouquet lengths. I always cut off any side-shoots that would otherwise be submerged in the vase. You can force these tiny trimmings, too — just place them in a suitably-small vase.
Notice the green tissue beneath the bark? This is called the cambian layer, and it is responsible for producing new roots and new shoots, and for making new tissue to heal over wounds. To discover if a woody plant is alive or dead, just scrape off a bit of bark. If the cambian layer is green, you can be sure the plant is very much alive.
It is my habit to place ‘Blue Jacket’ hyacinths in the same window as the forsythia. Last September, I set these bulbs “on vase” and then chilled them for 12 weeks in a spare refrigerator. Hyacinths require this cold, dark treatment in order to bloom.
Here is the “still life with forsythia” in its early career. The potted amaryllis (on the first shelf) will be removed in short order. As you will soon discover, I have far more interesting things to place there.
I don’t know why we’re spending so much time on hyacinths.
After all, the subject of this article is forsythia.
When my forsythia blooms — and it always does — I like to surround it with flowering houseplants. In the photo above, I arranged pink wax begonias (these are great houseplants) around the vased forsythia. On the lower shelf are pots of purple and white Primula obconica (obtained from the florist).
Now, promise me you’ll trudge through the snow today, and collect an armful of “dead” forsythia twigs. These, in very short order, will produce an extraordinary spring portrait for you.
And if you enjoyed this article, by all means drop me a line in the comments field below. As always, I love to hear from you.
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