Monthly Archives: February 2013

and now we wait…..

007One of the great things about  New England is  that the seasons change so remarkably. We are lucky here to be perpetually awaiting the next best thing. In spring we await the heat and blooms of summer, in summer we await the cool crisp nights of fall, in fall we giddily  await the first snowfall, and in winter we await the opening of all the buds on the trees and shrubs we can see plumping before our very eyes.

But waiting is hard, we have now grown tired of dirty snow banks, gray February days and salt covered cars. We are ready for birdsong, green grass and the first daffodils. Good thing we know a trick or two to rush the season in!

Forcing branches is one of the easiest and most satisfying of late winter activities. All it takes is a quick trip around the yard with the clippers and soon enough the house can be filled with the colors and feeling of springtime. About 8 days ago I cut the first bunch( of  what will be many)  forsythia branches that will come indoors. I usually start earlier , but somehow I got distracted and forgot. But, no worries there as the buds  are already breaking and showing lots of hints of the yellow explosion that will happen within the next day or two.

For the next few weeks I will head out every few days to cut more of them and lots of other things too that will keep this house in spring bloom until Mother Nature takes over outside.

Here is a list of what I will /or have already cut:

Hamemelis ‘Purple Ribbons’

Cherry branches  Prunus spcs.

Pussy willows

Birch and corylus for their catkins

Lonicera fragrantissima or Winter Honeysuckle  mmmmmm

Crab apples

Red bud    cercis canadensis

Red Maple   acer rubrum

Spirea branches from those  whose first leaves open in fiery color (‘Goldmound’, ‘Double Play’ and the like)

Two varieties of forsythia , one lemon yellow, one golden yellow

Spice bush lindera benzoin, which flowers much like forsythia


Magnolias  and Viburnum carlessii, both of which are difficult to force but as you can see by the photos below, even their unopened buds are cool to look at. viburnum bud 009

When cutting branches from shrubs and trees  for forcing, the closer to their actual bloom time you bring them in, the more success you will have . has a timetable that is pretty accurate, but if you just follow the normal succession of things you should  be OK. Start with Hamemelis (witch hazel) and forsythia as they bloom first and are easy forcers.


For very thick branches or shrubs that resist forcing, instead  of mashing the stems with a hammer which actually destroys the plants ability to siphon  water up ,try instead using a vegetable peeler to expose some of the cambium and sapwood  ( the layers under the bark)  to help with absorption. It works !010





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009Our last few snow storms have fallen while the temps were so low the snow was like crystal, just one look  at the sparkle and glitter and you knew the air was frigidly cold .

This weekend’s  snowstorm , much unlike those of the past two , is wet and heavy  due to warmer temps and the landscape that kind of snow  creates is stunningly  beautiful. It is sticking on all  the branches, both bare and  evergreen,  as well as the garden ornaments , furniture, and birdhouses.

A walk tonight shows New England at it’s best…..pure magic 025012019010023

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and just where have you been young lady?

Where has February gone? It has been cold and snowy, and that is precisely  when I take it as permission from the universe to sit and catch up on some reading and knitting and when the sitting gets old, some cleaning and organizing. I really  don’t know which I enjoy more, new warm wooly mittens or a neat file cabinet.

I have also done the taxes, seen lots of movies with Wil who has been around more than usual, started the college search process with two of the offspring, wrote a new presentation, started revamping a few others that need updating,  and even gave  a few including three well attended workshops.

You will notice I did not say “blog” or “garden” even once. For shame.

So ,I will try to clear my guilty conscience here and now by telling you of some plans , projects and books that all involve gardening.

First : Projects . Over the summer I grew ( as I always do ) birdhouse gourds. I love to cover the garden in vines vines and more vines, and if as a bonus they yield raw materials for making birdhouses, all the better. The vine itself could not be easier to grow, just sun and water and the occasional fertilizer and  TA- DA, the adorable gourds appear and grow effortlessly. At the end of the season to get them ready to dry and hollow out….you do nothing! Just leave them as they were , on the vine, even after it browns and  dies from frost and and eventually gets covered in snow. Only after those hard frosts  and the first few snow storms do I cut the gourds  from the vine and bring them into the cellar to finish curing.029

Over time the gourds may get coated with mold , and you can wipe it off if it bugs you ( it does bug me) or leave it and it won’t hurt them at all. I wipe it off with a paper towel wet with water containing a little bleach or use one of those handy clorox wipes . If  any of them start to get mushy or rot you need to immediately remove from the company of the others, you know the old saying  about the one bad appple. ;) 008

Now, after a few months they are completely  dry . How do I know this? When I shake them I can hear the seeds rattle around, which means project time. I am hoping this week to get  holes dremmeled in them and a coat of shellac put on  so they will be ready for nesting time in the spring.

I shall also shovel out the door of the shed so I can get the pots of bulbs( snowdrops, squill, tulips and daffodils)  I put in there before the big snowstorm a few weeks ago that I intend to bring in the house to force into bloom for instant spring, and while I am outside I will tramp  down a path to the back to cut branches of forsythia, plum trees , winter honeysuckle and  quince and make them join the party too.( If you are looking for help and direction in branch forcing  click here, the most complete, and accurate info I have found and I wish I had compiled it myself)


Plans: I have started to scout out what seeds I am hoping to plant this year, probably lots of new vines and maybe a handful of perennials including mountain mint.

I have ordered some veggie seeds , not for the produce, but for their flowers and leaves  , so I can figure out how to best use them in the arrangements that will come from the garden.

Quinoa, orach, red basil,runner beans  ooooo, the possibilities !!!

I also have the Oakes Dayliy catalogue , Annies Annuals, and of course David Austin’s rose catalogue on my desk awaiting the many post it notes that will  mark  the new additions I need to order for my garden.

And the books, there have been so many books , although only a few related to the garden:

Shed Chic   to help me come up with  decorating ideas  for the Red Shedshed.





The Life of a Leaf  by Steven Vogel    ….very cool stuff in here if you don’t mind a little mid-winter  science lesson

The Backyard Parables  by Margaret Roach ( to be honest, I hated it and struggled through about half before giving up)

and the poetry of Alfred  Tennyson, starting with the lovely verses of The Window, or Songs of the Wrens*   ….after all who could resist spending a snowy afternoon curled up with honey and lemon tea contemplating  lines like

Vine, vine, eglantine,

Clasp her window,trail and twine

Rose, rose and clematis

trail and twine, and clasp and kiss


or closer to our more current situation:


Bite, frost bite!

The woods are all the searer,

The fuel is all the dearer,

The fires are all the clearer,

My spring is all the nearer,

You have bitten into the heart of the earth

But not into mine

The Window was written at the request of Arthur Sullivan to be a song cycle, although I have never heard the music/recording, I can only imagine the songs would be stuck in my head for days at a time given how close the words hit my heart .

The copy I have on loan was bound in the late 1800′s and has gilded pages, numerous illustrations, and a fine red leather cover . I fear someone will have to pry it out of my hands to get it returned to it’s rightful owner.

There,now  I am back and  you know where to find me again. Did you miss me?007.







* I fear I may give up before getting to Sonnet Written On Hearing of the Outbreak of the Polish Insurrection though




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