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A burst of spring blooms in the middle of winter

Flowering shrub and tree branches can easily become indoor beauties.

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In late February and early March, we are still in the clutches of winter where I live – the scenic Laurel Highlands of southwestern Pennsylvania. The weather is mercurial: One day a blizzard is raging; the following day temperatures rise and the snow begins to melt.

Just when winter releases its grip for a few days and the sun shines brightly, my impulsive nature convinces me to grab my rubber boots,  a heavy wool sweater, and gloves.

I locate my garden clippers and a plastic bucket and set out to gather branches for an early spring arrangement. I simply ignore the date on the calendar and plan to usher in spring a month earlier by forcing the branches to bloom indoors.

My mission is easy to accomplish thanks to the generosity of a nearby neighbor who has several forsythia bushes growing along a wooden split rail fence. Pruning is good for the bush, because left unpruned, forsythias grow into unmanageable thickets with little flowering.

I convince myself that the slight breeze following me has a hint of the sweetness of an early spring. This reprieve from deep snow and frigid temperatures is a short-lived gift I gladly accept, because I know the landscape will soon be white again.

So walking down my country lane I don’t mind this false start to spring with snow melting as fast as vanilla ice cream on a summer day and muddy potholes ready for post-winter patching.

Three forsythia bushes line up along the fence. I cut the branches at a sharp angle and fill my bucket quickly. Normally, there should be water in the bucket to keep the branches from drying out until they are brought indoors. But since I am only a few minutes from home, I place them in the empty bucket and wrap them loosely in plastic so they don’t dry out.

Once home, I fill the bucket with cold water and allow the branches to rest for a couple days in the guest bedroom in a cool dark closet.

After two days, I fill three tall vases with cool water, recut the branches, arrange them in the vases, and place the bouquets near a sunny window. By late afternoon, the sun is streaming through the window and golden blossoms slowly begin to open and are transformed into flowering bouquets.

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