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Forced to Bloom

This time of year many of us are anxious to see things blooming. Perhaps one of your neighbors has a forsythia bush or a crabapple tree that has some of those fun, early flowers. Even if your yard is behind the times, so to speak, there’s a solution: forced branch blooming.

The practice of cutting branches once they have budded but before they bloom and placing them indoors in a nice, warm container of water can create your very own– ‘spring in a vase’ – if only for a few weeks.

Of course, it’s best to look for branches in your yard that are already ripening on the bud ends (will usually show a little color on the tip) on a warm afternoon. You’ll want at least 12” of branch or more. I love to find ones that have some ‘character,’ not just the straight ones.

Sometimes, you can help a neighbor prune back their overgrown bushes if you don’t have any of the species mentioned below. There are lots of creative ways to find them nearby, but folks even go to the florist to purchase Pussy Willow or other Easter favorites.

I came across these Saucer Magnolia branches that were casualties of a big snow storm in New York last week and I’m hoping these big buds will open up. I’ve never tried forcing this species before, but read online that it’s possible. (I’ll send you a picture in the coming weeks and let you see the progress).

On average, the bigger the bud, the longer it will take to open.

Here’s a list of suggested species and bloom times:

  • Forsythia is one of the most popular. Usually blooms in just one week.

  • Quince (one of my neighbors has these bushes that bloom coral red and I usually help him keep them trimmed back from the sidewalk 😉)

  • Pussy willow, Red maple, Redbud and Spicebush take about 2 weeks. Many folks encourage smashing the end with a hammer or cutting diagonally into the stem to encourage uptake of water and faster blooming.

  • Honeysuckle and Wisteria vines take as much as 3 weeks. Keep them in a sunny spot while you are encouraging them to bloom.

  • Cherry, Dogwood, Crab Apple, Magnolia, Lilac and Pear tree branches can take between 3 – 5 weeks to bloom. Change water often, so that bacteria doesn’t grow in your water and rot the ends.

These blooms will, of course, be short-lived. Without the nutrients from its roots, water and sunlight can merely continue what was begun but it cannot sustain a branch. Just like you and I, a branch needs to stay connected to its source to have any lasting beauty, any sustainable production.

We read similar words in John 15: 5 – “I am the Vine you are the branches, He who abides in Me and I in him will bear much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing.” Like the forced branch bloom, life may have a pretty season, but it’s only as good as its source. The key for true beauty is to stay connected to the vine – Jesus.

So while we may admire someone else’s bloom, especially one that seems to be quicker or more showy than our own, let’s keep in mind that each flower has its own time and season. When we get anxious to have something before it’s time, we often sacrifice lasting benefit for immediate pleasure.

How much better it is to plant than to pluck.

THE WHITE MAGNOLIA TREE By Helen Deutsch The year when I was twenty-one (John that year was twenty-three) That was the year, that was the spring, We planted the white magnolia tree. "This tree," said John, "shall grow with us, And every year it will bloom anew. This is our life. This is our love." And the white magnolia grew and grew.... Oh, youth's a thing of fire and ice And currents that run Hot and white, And its world is as bright As the sun... I was twenty-one... And I wore a plume in my hat, and we went to the movies and wept over "Stella Dallas" and John sang "Moonlight and Roses" (a little off -key, but very nicely, really) and we hurried through our crowded days and beautiful plans, boundless ambitions and golden decisions. There is so much the young heart clamors for: this it must have, and that it cannot live without, and it must be all or nothing, for aren't we the masters of creation? Oh, valiant and untamed were we, When we planted the white magnolia tree! And the white magnolia grew and grew, Holding our love within its core, And every year it bloomed anew, And we were twenty-one no more. No more untamed, no more so free, Nor so young, nor so wild and aflame were we. Dearer to us then grew other things: easy sleep, books, a day's quiet holiday, good talk beside a fire, the beauty of old faces.... We have known many things since then, the death of a child and the bitter lesson that a heart, which breaks, must mend itself again (that it can and must be done) and what loyalty can mean and how real a word like courage can become and that solitude can be rich and gratifying and quite different from loneliness.... There is so little the serious heart requires, friends, faith, a window open to the world, pride in work well done, and strength to live in a world at war and still maintain the heart's own private peace.... Dear Heaven, I give thanks to thee For the thinks I did not know before. For the wisdom of maturity, For bread, and a roof, and for one thing more.... Thanks because I still can see The bloom on the white magnolia tree!

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