Here in the north country of Vermont, winter with its swirls of snow and deep chunks of ice can have us wondering when will life begin again? The trees sway back and forth in the winds, and you can hear them cracking and popping on the coldest nights, cells freezing and buds luckily packed tight inside their thin branches. I like this time for hibernating. I don’t have to see anyone or do anything, and nobody expects anything of you, while the snow piles up higher and higher around our homes.
When the rains come, one of my favorite smells is the spring rain. It gets in everywhere and soon it is warming up. Everything is melting and lilac buds are amongst the first to swell and turn green. It is very hard to dress for this weather – one minute it is cold, next minute hot, in between a pelting cold rain. But the trees and ducks let it slide off. They know how to ride out the storm and the early spring weather!
All our longings are contained inside that thin branch. That something so small and slender and brittle can contain so much color and baskets of fruit! The tree is dreaming all winter of putting out the fragrant blossoms, and then the fruit that swells and nourishes so many.
How does it hold all that inside? It is the promise of springtime, the life of the tree. Our lives are based around not just the mulberry bush but all trees and plants. They nourish us deeply and fully, both with their majestic splendor and with the food they provide to us and all animal life. New Jersey may be called “the Garden State,” but all plant life on earth is really a state of exquisite bounty we call jungle or forest or farm.
So here we are, spring is jumping up all over, and we are given this gift of renewed and replenished life and hope, again.
Some tips for bringing spring branch tips into the home for color, texture and interest:
- Cut willow bush twigs early and put them into a vase of water for pussy willows! When they send roots into the water, you can plant them outside and have a handy pussy willow bush to enjoy right there or to cut from each very early spring.
- Bring forsythia branches into the house and keep in some water. They, too, will root after a week or two of yellow fresh flowers brightening up the place. Wait until it is above freezing outside for a while and then plant them gently wherever you would like to have more forsythia bushes. Keep them watered the first spring and summer for best success.
- If you see a cherry tree with round big buds, chances are you can bring a small thin branch or two inside and put it in a warm place in water. In a week or so, it could flower inside the house.
You will be bringing the springtime of a tree into the world of people, close up.
David Fried is a poet, garden writer, and grower of fruit and nut trees at Elmore Roots Nursery
in northern Vermont.