February here in Charleston may not be filled with mounds of snow, sleet and ice, but it remains winter all the same.. which is why it’s so much fun to bring some early spring into your home, and brighten everything up with blooming branches. Depending on the weather, these branches may start as early as December, and continue until April, but late February and March is almost always perfect for finding some great varieties like Quince, Forsythia and Cherry, not to mention other local favorites like Dogwood, Japanese Magnolia, and Peach!
Quince is often the earliest blooming branch we see in the shop, and, at least for me, is best when used sparingly to showcase its unique architectural form. It arrives, like most branches, almost bare, but each day you will see a new bud or bloom popping out while others fade away. Even where you didn’t think there was a bud, somehow one will magically appear and open into a flower. Individually, each flower lasts only a few days, but the blooms continue to pop out over the course of several weeks, so the look changes all the time, and continues for a while. It comes in white, light pink, or a salmon tone often referred to as red.
Yellow lovers unite! Forsythia is sure to make you smile and think spring with its profuse number of bright yellow blooms on straight or slightly arched branches. Forsythia arrives a little more budded than most other blooming branches, showing a touch of yellow from the very start before finally exploding in one big fireworks worthy show of blooms. Forsythia will grow here in Charleston, but it tends to be a little leggy, with longer stems of branches and fewer blooms than when grown in colder climates.
For me at least, there is nothing quite as exquisitely excruciating or rewarding as watching the double cherry blooms emerge from their thick branches and open into big poofy clouds of pink fluff. Cherry takes it’s time so it can look just right, and rewards us with long lasting and showy blooms unlike anything else. Cherry isn’t overly common here in Charleston, but it will grow here, and once you see it in full bloom, you won’t easily forget where it is. Matter of fact, you’re going to want to write down that address. Always good to help your neighbors in pruning their trees.
Hands down, dogwood is one of my favorite blooming branches, and grows well in our temperate climate making it easy to find in a lot of yards. Branches are best cut for forcing when you see tiny round buds that look a lot like a half-popped popcorn kernel, or just emerging greenish petals. These buds will continue to emerge until you have branches packed full of graceful large 4 petaled white flowers.
Also referred to as Tulip Tree, Japanese Magnolia is one of our earliest bloomers here in Charleston, with buds appearing as early as the beginning of January. The blooms start as long fuzzy pods on the branches, and emerge into a stunning large tulip-shaped flowers.
Another local/regional favorite is blooming Peach. Peach branches are typically fairly straight and open to beautiful pale pink flowers. Like forsythia, Peach is a fireworks show, with branches loaded with blooms that open up almost all at once for a stunning show.