February 4, 2013

An Indoor Shrubbery


I have been captivated by this photo all winter.

I think the photo came from Southern Living magazine. A Tin Eye search returns several blogs that re-posted it, but Southern Living seems like the original.

The colors, the composition, the beautiful blooming branches and expensive glass jars all sing to me.

So on the last day of January, when a crazy warm front switched our temperatures from 10 degrees F to the high 50s overnight, I went outside to gather branches for forcing.

It was warm and windy and wet and sloppy, but with pruners in hand, I set out.

First on my list was witch hazel. The hybrid Hamamelis 'Diane' was in bloom, but for the life of me I can never see those little flowers. The foliage is rusty brown and persistent and the scattering of rusty flowers are tiny and hang below the brown leaves for a truly ghastly effect.

This witch hazel had been split apart by a storm in 2011, and in 2012 I pruned it severely to try to regain some shape. So there were few branches to cut that hadn't already been taken off. I found a few, but the flowers seemed to be clustered at the base of the stems, and would wind up under water in the vase.  No matter. I stripped the dry leaves off the branches I cut and brought them in.

I have never ever smelled any of the famous fragrance that witch hazels are supposed to perfume the countryside with in winter. Nothing. But as they warmed up in the sink, as I cut them and stuck them in a vase, bringing them up to my face as I carried them to the living room, I caught a tiny whiff for the first time. Spicy. Wonderful.


I also had trouble finding sufficient branches to cut from a newly planted winter honeysuckle. This Lonicera fragrantissima is still tiny, with just a dozen whippy branches on it, so finding a few to cut was a problem. But four were taken, and I am eagerly waiting to see if there will be blooms indoors. I have never smelled winter honeysuckle, but like the elusive witch hazel scent, it is supposed to perfume the air.

I cut some forsythia, just because you can. Forsythias will bloom inside if you look at them.

I took just a few budded branches from a Dawn viburnum (Viburnum bodnantense). Like my other shrubs, it is not big and there are so few branches to sacrifice.  It is another young plant that I have never seen bloom and have never smelled, so I hope it opens its pretty pink buds and delivers a scent indoors.

I cut some fothergilla branches, some cornelian cherry (Cornus mas) and aronia, just a few of each.


Jim came into the room and asked, why do we have pruning clippings in the living room?  Not prunings, I told him, those are branches of winter flowering shrubs.  Well why do we have a shrubbery indoors?

Because.

Because it's midwinter and I need to see something bloom. I need to smell something fragrant. I need to create my own version of the picture I have been ogling all winter, even though I know some glass florist vases, a ceramic pitcher and a shot glass aren't even close.

In the shot glass is one tiny budded branch from my yellow flowered magnolia 'Elizabeth'.  That tree suffered storm damage last year too, and there is not one branch I can spare. But could you resist this fat fuzzy bud, so ready to open?

And could you resist knowing you could force it to look like this in midwinter indoors?

Here's hoping.

30 comments:

  1. Nice work! I think your collection is just fabulous...and that magnolia, wow! Sexy...

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    1. Loree, Thanks. There really is something sexy about magnolia blooms!

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  2. In just a few short weeks we'll have the Hartford Flower Show to boost our spirits with all sorts of spring blooming plants. Despite the heavy dose of commercialism, I go every year just to see plants leafed out and in bloom.

    I've never forced shrubs but have a few I can spare. How long does it take for them to bloom?

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    1. Sue, it takes a long time for the branches to bloom, at least a couple weeks. The witch hazel was already blooming when I cut the branches, but the others are tightly budded. We'll see if I get anything at all on them!

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  3. I think you did a good job finding stems to bring inside. It will be fun to see what blooms when also IF they all bloom inside. May the blooms be with you. The recycled glass jars in the first picture is usually not too expensive if you check your import stores.

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    1. Lisa, I would like to get some of those glass jars -- I'll have to check the import places as you recommend. Thanks! Even empty I think they are beautiful accents.

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  4. Fantastic inspiration! I love your comment "because it's midwinter and I need to see something bloom." So perfect and true :)

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    1. Rosemary, Thank you. I do home these twiggy branches will bloom!

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  5. I usually just bring in downed twigs and branches, and put them in a vase without any water (won't spill and make a mess). They're dead, of course, so not likely to bloom. But even the dead stuff can be beautiful. Good for you for trying to emulate the photo you've been ogling and bringing a little spring inside at this time of year. I hope they all flourish. Who knows, some of them might even root in the water.

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    1. Alison, That would be a surprise id they root in water!! I will just be happy to get some pretty color in a little while. And maybe some fragrance.

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  6. Laurrie, I love your fine group of winterspring shrubbery. Here's hoping Jim "gets" it. As for the witch hazel, I've gotten fine fragrance from 'Jelena', which I can smell all around the garden. Indoors, the fragrance spreads like paperwhites, with an important difference: Jelena is not an olfactory offender.

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    1. Lee, You are the second local gardner I know who says Jelena has it all -- fragrance, looks, flowers. Not so this 'Diane' witch hazel.

      I am also distressed about the way 'Diane' holds all her leaves. Not just a few, but almost all the foliage is hanging on looking brown. I found another blogger who says the same thing about his 'Diane'. Hmm, why did I not know this beforehand? I sure would like to replace it with a 'Jelena'.

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  7. Oh, I hope your magnolia opens - what a wonderful fragrance that would be! I love all your inside shrubbery. Love the grouping of them all. And the fact that you get to constantly see a part of the outside, and smell all the different fragrances, may soothe your spring fever until you can go out there and play.

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    1. HolleyGarden, Thanks! I do want the blooms and scent, but if all I get is the twiggy branches here inside, that's fine too --- I like the way they the stems look in the group of vases.

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  8. I hope you get tons of blooms.
    This is a reminder to me to bring in some branches. On my list to do tomorrow after work!! Can't wait to see all the flowers.

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    1. Gardener on Sherlock, Thanks -- I hope they open up too : )

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  9. Oh, how wonderful! Another good one is Flowering Almond. I can't wait to see how you will be rewarded!

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    1. Sissy, I agree, flowering almond, or any of the pretty cherries or pear trees would make lovely forced branches.

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  10. I love the bud in the shot glass! And your success with the witch hazel makes me want to do the same. It is hard to appreciate those tiny blooms, but in a vase they are the star! Your cuttings will all be wonderful when they bloom. A sure cure for the winter doldrums!

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    1. Deborah, I am disappointed with the way my witch hazel looks outdoors -- holding its brown leaves and looking awful, so the best way to enjoy it is to bring the flowering branches indoors!

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  11. Laurrie, wonderful idea to force the branches! I love to do this too, but here is still too cold for forcing. Also I love the smell of opening young leaves, very springily.

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    1. Nadezda, forcing branches does bring a bit of spring into the house, just when we need a little uplift.

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  12. Thanks for the reminder. Just today I noticed the flower buds on the 'Hally Jolivette' cherry were plumping up. Ripe for picking. I am going to get to it.

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    1. Layanee, Hally Jolivette will make a lovely spiring flower show for you inside!

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  13. I've never forced any shrub cuttings but like the idea of it. I could use a dose of spring! I hope they all bloom for you. :o)

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    1. Tammy, go find some forsythia or other spring flowering branches and bring them inside. You'll be cheered up!

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  14. Hi Laurrie....This is my first time visiting your blog and I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT!! Your "about me" section is fabulous. I have to admit I laughed quite a few times and I love to laugh! I think your Indoor Shrubbery looks just as lovely as the original. Congratulations on a great job! I look forward to following your blog!

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    1. Christy, thanks so much. I hope you find lots here to amuse you and keep you interested!

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