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Journal

Forcing spring branches

Earlier this year the hedges along our road were cut - and as I walked home with Dixie I found mangled elder branches on the ground. They looked completely dormant, but I took them home, popped them into a jam jar of water and waited.

Three weeks later they began to grow leaves, six weeks later there were tiny elder flowers ready to bloom.

It felt like watching magic happen before my eyes and woke me up to quite how simple it is to force spring branches and bring some hope indoors.

It also gives a lovely alternative to flowers when British outdoor grown flowers are in short supply and our gardens are a little sparse.

My windowsills are now covered with jars and vases, each with a different kind of twig and the sun room has a magnificent display of hazel catkins lengthening day by day.

You need

  • Secateurs
  • Twigs or branches
  • Vases, jugs, jam jars, tins - something that can hold water

 

Choosing your branches

Branches will start to come out about six weeks before their natural flowering outdoors. The bud needs to be formed by the natural cold of winter, but then you are simply bringing Spring forward by a few weeks.

Select nice shapes, make your cuts intentional and regard it as a form of pruning rather than simply hacking away.

Cut with a nice clean cut so you don't damage the tree or shrub - take loppers if you want very thick branches, don't just make a mess of the tree with underpowered secateurs of scissors or you risk it becoming ill.

Remember that often the tiniest spring is the most effective - a couple of inches of larch or hornbeam is wonderful on a desk.

Varieties that I am having success with are elder, amelanchier, willow, dogwood, hornbeam, hazel, apple, larch, alder and birch.

Choosing your containers.

I like to use clear glass for things that might develop roots (elder, dogwood, willow) and solid jags and vases for things that might discolour the water quickly (like hazel).

It is important that your sticks don't topple over and the easiest way to do this is to add a stone to the bottom of the jar to weigh it down (a good use for all those beautiful beach pebbles that come home in coat pockets)

I love jars lined up along windowsills - it gives a lovely nature table effect.

Preparing the branches

Take off any leaves or buds that will be under the water line.

Recut the stems at a 45 degree angle (I find that bashing isn't necessary as the sap is rising and the twig is desperate to get the water right to its tip so it really efficient in the spring).

Remember to top up water as sometimes the twigs are really thirsty.

Arrange in a group, line or on a table instead of flowers

 

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Comments: 1 (Add)

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Catherine Hunt on April 7 2021 at 18:22

Once again Jane you have been the oracle. We are want to make a Willow Bog as an outside toilet. This is helping us to be one step closer. Thank you

Snapdragon social

Every year the sudden sink in light catches me by surprise. ⁠⁠
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Usually I first see it when I fail to take a photo. When I can't get my camera to capture what I want. When all the advances I've made in my photography get swamped by not knowing what to do to make a difference to something so ethereal.⁠⁠
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Yesterday - taking a photo of the Studio windowsill with its seed heads and berries - I hit a problem of grain.  All my images looked dull, in focus but somehow lacking light.  I randomly changed camera settings and lost half the morning peering at a screen foolishly trying to edit light back in.⁠⁠
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In the end I messaged my friend Rebecca @poshyarns - whose photos capture light in the most beautiful way. She called me back and talked me through, and even gave me the confidence to ditch my tripod. ⁠⁠
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And suddenly the light came back into my photos and the murk was gone. ⁠⁠
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If Rebecca ever decides to teach I will be right at the head of the queue.⁠
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#howihueit #simpleandstill #capturequiet #beautyyouseek #calm_collected #aseasonalway #aseasonalshift #cornersofmyworld #slowlived #slowandsimpledays #quietchaotics #ihaveathingwithwindows #ofsimplethings #beautyinsimplicity #floralstories #allthingsbotanical #underthefloralspell #slowfloralstyle #petalsandprops #nestandflourish #livethelittlethings #thehappynow #ihavethisthingwithflowers #moodforfloral #cornersofmyhome #aseasonalway #slowlivingforlife #aflowerfilledlife
Kat @katgoldin took this photo of me a few weeks ago on a photoshoot that consisted of her telling me to 'just do the things you do and ignore me'.⁠⁠
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Despite having been friends for ages, she had never seen me embroider - the buzz and shimmy of the needle on fabric. ⁠⁠
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Sometimes seeing things through other people's eyes helps you see them anew yourself. Kat's joy in the emerging lines helped me see that what I've created here in the studio is a very special and precious thing.⁠⁠
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The doors to the Studio Club - which is basically a seasonal exploration of all that goes on here - open again in a few weeks time.  You can sign up to get a personal invite via my profile. ⁠⁠
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You can see how good I am at 'ignoring' - my face is quite clearly mid laughter.⁠⁠
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This is perhaps a bit of a downbeat photo for my 1000th post. messy faded daisies in the Studio Meadow.⁠⁠
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But I think it pretty much sums up what I hold dear - imperfect, natural, wild.⁠⁠
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Today my elder daughter graduates from drama school (a year late), in two days time my younger daughter turns twenty one. ⁠⁠
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A weekend of reflection, celebration and joy lies ahead.
The last of the dahlias. They are declining with the light. ⁠⁠
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Though you can't see in the photo the doubles all have that mucky chicken bum at the back and the singles have dropped their petals.⁠⁠
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The best things in the garden at the moment are the sanguisorbas - bought from @quirkybirdgardener in the summer - and settling in so well that one is now as tall as me.⁠⁠
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They've always been one of my favourite cut flowers - these white ones remind me a little of of lambs tails.
Home⁠
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After an incredibly inspiring couple of weeks. ⁠
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We ended up our holiday at Camp Goodlife @thegoodlifesoc - where it seemed that every single person we spoke to was making a positive change in the world. From creating new ways of running restaurants to connecting people to the land to making beautiful clothes to teaching children about growing food. 
And for everyone, these changes were centred around joy. ⁠
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I loved our trip but I’m so excited about getting back into the Studio this morning. 

📷 @katgoldin
Thistledown is so beguiling. ⁠
The soft cream catching the light, waiting for goldfinches to alight. ⁠
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I’m heading to Hawarden today to join the lively people at @thegoodlifesoc and teach about foraged colour and dyeing socks with all kinds of plants. I’m hoping to be able to harvest some thistles as they give a particularly beautiful mustardy yellow.
Though I grew lots and lots of straw flowers for Christmas wreaths back when I had a proper commercial flower business,  it was only this year that I slowed down enough to really see them. ⁠
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I’d assumed that they wouldn’t be good for insects until fully out - flat dulled daisies, past the point of picking - but actually wasps seem to pollinate them when they are still tightly furled. ⁠
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This patch was wasp central for weeks. ⁠
A few butterflies flitted about, but mainly wasps⁠
I am somebody who needs distance to see a bigger picture. ⁠
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For the past couple of months I’ve been really struggling with where Snapdragon Life is, and how to get from here to where I want it to be. ⁠
I filled books and books with notes but was going round in circles - unable to commit to anything with the kind of conviction a small business needs. It was all too fuzzy somehow. ⁠
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Now I am away from the Studio. ⁠
Right in the middle of two weeks of walking and eating and photographing gardens and meeting friends and suddenly it is all much clearer. ⁠
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I now have 5 sentences written in my phone notes and a high clear soaring route to take. ⁠
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The multi talented @katgoldin took this photo of me in the Studio before I left - part of a photo shoot that took almost three years to actually schedule because I will do almost anything to avoid being in front of a camera.
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About Snapdragon Life

At Snapdragon Life I gently guide you through bringing the changing seasons into your daily life, helping you slow down, so that you can experience increased well being, calm and creativity.

 

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