Winter is fattening

Sometimes that’s not a bad thing. (I’m not talking about Superbowl Sunday chili binges and consolation snacks for sad Patriots’ fans.) Deliciously spring-like temperatures and the weekend’s warming sun have started plumping up the buds – some fit to burst.

Salix ‘Mt. Aso’ (?) in the nursery bedSalix ‘Mt. Aso’ (?) in the nursery bed
This willow in the nursery (labeled Salix ‘Mt. Aso’) couldn’t wait another moment to bust out its fiberoptic glow plugs and the witch hazel (Hamemelis x intermedia ‘Diane’) has begun uncreaking its crimps like an arthritic yogi.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ 2-4-08

Cornus mas in bud 2-4-08Buds on the Cornelian Cherry (Cornus mas) are fairly rotund and the Star Magnolia’s (Magnolia stellata) are fat fuzzy slippers which hopefully will not be tempted to unwrap too soon in the yo-yo weather. The hellebores (Helleborus foetidus) have finally un-caped their plump buds right on schedule.

Helleborus foetidus showing its buds




Magnolia stellata in fuzzy bud
What has put on fat in your garden? Whenever the weather’s not too rotten, take a close look. This is a great time to test your winter i.d. skills (if you learn to identify trees and shrubs in the winter, you can i.d. them anytime – who needs leaves?!) Winter Hazel - Corylopsis glabrescens in budand if you’re out there watching the buds and ticking off the days to spring bloom, you won’t miss the show. (Winter and spring bloomers tend to not be big self-promoters. You have to seek them out.)

Japanese Stewartia - Stewartia pseudocamelia seed and bud

If you want a spring tease, cut a few branches of early spring bloomers and place them in water. About a month ago I cut some Forsythia and Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles speciosa) and kept them in one of the cool greenhouses. The Forsythia opened over the weekend and the Quince will probably be only another sunny day behind. When you first cut the branches and put them in a vase, make sure to make a verticle cut through the base of the stem to expose more pithy surface area to the water. To speed bloom, give them fresh warm water everyday and keep them in a warm, sunny location. To slow them down, give them only cold water and keep them in a cool room. Depending on how close the buds are to breaking when you pick and how warm they are kept, forcing can take anywhere from a week to (in my case) a month.

Forced branches - Forsythia and Flowering Quince

10 thoughts on “Winter is fattening

  1. My ‘Diane’ has been blooming for about a week, sure is pretty. We are supposed to have some April-like temperatures this week and then a deep freeze for next week (down to 7 deg. F at night). I think I have learned to slowly temper my enthusiasm for the coming of Spring. I don’t want to get too excited about Spring, too early.

    I usually force Magnolia, Cherry, Cornus mas and White Forsythia branches also. Thanks for reminding me. I want to try some of the early Viburnums this year, too.


    Chris, I know what you mean about premature spring happiness – it can be disappointing. I like your list of forces – do you find magnolias tough? -kris

  2. If I go out to the garden now the only thing I’ll find plumping up is me. Snow and cold are still the norm here and sitting in front of the computer is not regular excerise.

    Think of it as storing up energy for spring… -kris

  3. I’ve been thinking about cutting some Forsythia branches to force, but I don’t know if they’d bloom before I head out of town for some much needed warmer climate. I usually cut a few every year for forcing.

    Maybe if you cut them before you leave they’d be in bloom for your return. – Where are you going?! -kris

  4. Just to let you know it’s carnival time, and your link is up.

    Oh great! Thank you, Sue – Everyone head over to Sue’s blog for the Garden blog carnival! -kris

  5. Hi – I used to work in Bristol, England until late last year, so when the map of Bristol, RI and your site came up in Blotanical, I couldn’t resist taking a look. Your photos are absolutely stunning :)

    Thank you, VP! It’s funny – when I first checked our location on the Blotanical map, Stuart had me in your Bristol! -kris

  6. Love the willow! Although, based on the pictures and the relative size of the catkins, I think it’s a variety of Japanese Giant pussy willow. If it is, then hort. name on your label should read Salix chaenomeloides ‘Mt. Aso’. The only nursery I’ve ever heard of carrying it is Forestfarm, although it isn’t currently in their catalogue. But the only red pussy willow I’ve heard of is the Korean variety ‘Rubykins’, but its catkins aren’t as large.

    Whatever it is I want it!

    Susan, I think you might be right – a lot of the labels in the nursery are sort of written in shorthand and though I looked it up on-line, I couldn’t be sure. And the person who found it for us does get a lot from Forestfarm so I think you’re probably right about that too. Keep your eyes out for it – it is a beauty! -kris

  7. Great post! Even though a mere hour (?) north, I ain’t seen nothing yet. Well, not nothing…buds are definiltey plumping on the witch hazel in my neighbors yard and the quince buds too.

    It was great to meet you at NE Grows. Hope to make it down to Blithewold soon.

    Thanks, Sara! With our recent bone chilling temps I’ve been too wimpy to go out and check on those blooms and the fatties – I’m crossing my fingers that they aren’t burnt to toast. Might be better for you that things waited. I’m looking forward to your visit! -kris

  8. Message for Susan Sims: I have several plants of this willow and it’s in full bloom here in Northern Vermont. Willows root very easily from hardwood cuttings taken at this time of year. Mine are were from cuttings stuck in Spring ’07 and are about the size in the photo. Let me know if you’d like some. By the way I was at the Arnold Arboretum 2 weeks ago and the ‘Rubykins’ were in full bloom and although they were spectacular, the flowers are tiny in comparison to ‘Mt Aso’.

    Thank you, Michael – I know Susan is thrilled to be getting a Mt. Aso at last! -kris

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>