By Kerry Ann Mendez
Happy Valentine's Day!
This is the day when some fortunate recipients are blessed with bouquets of lovely flowers or other cherished gifts. However, since this can be a hit or miss occasion, I frankly like to make a dazzling arrangement harvested from my own gardens.
One personal favorite is vibrant red-stemmed dogwood paired with rosy-pink or black (depending on my mood) pussy willows. The willow's fuzzy catkins make a nice contrast to the dogwood's shiny red stems. Other woodies that can be forced to create dazzling forerunners to spring (spring is less than five weeks away!), are forsythia, crabapple, flowering almond, cherry, and redbud.
Early blooming shrubs and trees make the best choices for forcing. Simply grab your pruners, march out to your dormant beauty and selectively remove branches that will not disfigure the plant. Cut the stems on a diagonal, crush the ends to increase water uptake and place them in warm water indoors.
At this point, I usually place the vase in a cool, sunny location and change the water every three or four days to prevent "stinky cloudy water". To reduce changing the water as often, you can add a floral preservative (per package instructions) that will keep the water clear for up to a week or more. You can also make your own preservative by mixing one tablespoon of Listerine or one tablespoon of lemon-lime soda in a quart of water. Depending on the plant, flowers can emerge anywhere between two (pussy willows) and six weeks later.
So Happy Valentine's Day to yourself! Or even better, to a loved one, friend, or someone that could use a friend...