Today we are going to tackle a very basic, cut-brach centerpiece. Now is the time of year to start thinking about forcing flowering trees into bloom to bring a little spring to your winter doldrums. Forcing blooms is quite simple. Cut the branches, place them in some room temperature water and wait. You will be rewarded. The hardest part of this little task is making sure you have the right tree or bush! Anything that breaks into flower in early spring is worth the gamble. Typical plants forced in my late winter garden include forsythia, star magnolia, redbuds, cherry and apple branches. The plant pictured below? It is a special one...
This plant is fairly nondescript during the summer and fall, save for it's easy-to-blend reddish-maroon leaves. In spring however, this tree/bush breaks forth into the most spectacular, understated white blooms. That is not the real show though. The real show only happens when you start walking around your front yard, sniffing furiously to find what is making that incredible smell. You hasten over to large flowers in bloom, thinking surely it must be some bright red or yellow something or other. You stand under the weeping cherry, breathing deeply, but it is not the cherry. It is something more. Then, THEN, you slam the car door a little too hard and accidentally hit that branch of sandcherry and BOOM. The scent is overwhelming (in the most wonderful of ways) and you now know exactly what plant to thank for that delightful smell. The sandcherry.
Let's start at the beginning shall we...
When arranging cut branches, you want a balanced arrangement, but that doesn't mean it needs to be perfectly symmetrical. You need balance because boy can those branches be heavy! You don't want your vase tipping over! Aestetically though, a little asymmetry can be nice.
1. So first, find a branch that has a nice "V" down low and centered on the branch. This will offer a solid foundation for your arrangement.
2. Make sure you trim any small branches, leaves or flowers from the bottom and the "v" leaving it free and clear.
3. Next, you want to add in a little height. Balance height out to make sure the long, heavy branches are equal weight from side to side. The perfect branches for your tall additions are long and very straight with just a few clusters of flowers on the tips.
4. This arrangement needs some filler! See how empty it is in the middle? Find a branch that has a cluster of branches all off of one main stem. That is a good low cluster, centering the visual of your arrangement and giving it physical stability.
5. Trim off any spindly looking branches and now you can think more towards an asymmetrical look if you choose.
That filler in the middle is keeping the arrangement solid, so I chopped off some spindly growth on the top left to add more interest.
*** Of course, you can go the super easy route and simply find a branch that is beautiful in its own right. Cut and plop it in a jar. Done and done.
I kid you not when I say that forcing branches is one of my absolute favorite garden chores.
It comes at just the right time of year when it seems winter will just hack on through to forever.
It seems I am not alone.