March 2017 Gardening

by Jane Ahrens
Forsythia has a perfect branch for forcing blooms in the spring.

From Mélie’s Garden

This year the Northern Vernal Equinox is on March 20th. It is the official beginning of spring and time for serious garden chores. Recently, I attended a wonderful lecture given by David Fried, the founder of the Elmore Roots Nursery in Wolcott, VT, where he grows many fruit and nut trees in a very northern climate. He was an amusing speaker and clearly passionate about his trees and shrubs, but one of the most meaningful things he said was, “When we plant, we have hope for the future”. So true… each spring when we are planting, we do hope that the tree, shrub, seed or seedling will grow into a healthy specimen that will give us joy in either its taste or its beauty.

The best way to start the gardening year is to walk around your property and decide what needs to be done. Clean up and pruning are the first priorities this month. Taking a look around before the leaves come out encourages you to assess the views from your house. Check the sight lines from your windows and doors. Does the plant material enhance the view? Or are plants crowding each other due to overgrowth? A good pruning of what you have will often do the trick. Margaret Roach, who writes an excellent gardening blog, “A Way To Garden”, gives the following pruning advice:

“Take out the three Ds anytime they occur: dead, damaged and diseased wood. You can add dying and deformed as well. Taking out all suckers and water sprouts is often required. (The mess at the bottom of a grafted shrub or branches that shoot up vertically from a branch.) Take out anything thinner than a pencil or turning inward or rubbing against another branch, always use good sharp and strong pruning equipment, shears, hand saw, long arm pruner and loppers.”

Japanese inspired clipping

Once you have completed your pruning, look through your pile of branches for interesting pieces with flower buds on them to bring inside to force. This will make you feel better about what you have cut off. Cut the branch on the diagonal, so it will get the maximum amount of water. Then soak the branches in a container of warm water and put the container in a cool place in the house for 24 hours. You then can put the branches in clean water and place them where they will look pretty in your home. Remember to keep changing the water every few days to avoid bacteria and spray the branches occasionally to keep them somewhat moist, so the buds won’t fall off before they bloom. You can also make small Japanese inspired arrangements, placing one interesting branch in a small container with a cut flower at the bottom. I often cut a camelia from one of my plants and place it at the base of a quince branch. You can buy Japanese black vases with a pincushion that work very well for this at a florist supply store.

Vase with a pincushion

Good varieties of branches to force are Apple, Forsythia, Spicebush, Quince and Viburnum. They are also favorites of the birds, so good to plant on your property. They will bring hope as they start to bloom again each year.

Nature has a wonderful healing effect to all who appreciate it.

Featured Photo

USCG Eagle passing the Race early morning March 18, 2023 on her return from the Chesapeake Bay . Photo Credit Marlin Bloethe

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