Celebrate blooming branches

Clever ways to show off the first signs of spring

Crabapple branches

BLOOMING FRUIT TREES  With the first wave of mild weather, flower buds grow fat. Within weeks, these buds burst into bloom. All fruit trees flower, but some are bred for dramatic bloom, not fruit production; a few produce both.    

Arrangement:  Tall flowering crabapple branches create sculptural drama in a vase.   Cut branches to about twice the height of your container, then make a 1- to 2-inch slit in each stem so the branches absorb water.

Rob D. Brodman

White quince arrangement


Most of the year the humble flowering quince (Chaenomeles) exists quietly in the background demanding little care. Then in late winter or early spring when it's nearly forgotten branches erupt into bloom.

Arrangement: Delicate capiz-shell candleholders on a matching tray show off short stems of white quince.

The blooming branches rest on the edges of the water-filled containers; individual ivy leaves anchor the stems.

Thomas J. Story

Lidded glass terrarium


Clouds of pale yellow pink or white blooms appear on the horizontal branches of dogwoods in late winter or spring. Their arresting color comes not from petals but from broad bracts (modified leaves) that surround small insignificant flowers. In fall some trees turn brilliant colors.

Arrangement: A lidded glass terrarium $39; [XLINK "http://www.smithandhawken.com" "Smith [SPECIAL_CHAR {38}] Hawken" "" "_new"] 800/981-9888) displayed on a cake stand holds three stems of rosy red dogwood. [CP][P]

Rob D. Brodman

The air is cool, the sky is gray, and you begin to wonder whether winter will last forever. Suddenly, trees that have stood bare and silent all season erupt in a floral display that takes your breath away.

Branches are fringed in pink, purple, and white, some perfuming the air with their heavenly scent. It's a grand gesture that lets you know spring is almost here and the cycle of life has started all over again.


Clip branches when the flower buds grow fat or when the first bud opens. Make an inch-deep slit in each stem end.

Fill your container with lukewarm water and add floral preservative. Display out of direct sunlight; change water when it gets murky, and recut and reslit stem ends.


Few floral displays match the spectacle of deciduous magnolias decorated with large pink, purple, white, or yellow blooms starting in midwinter. The genus includes a wide variety of trees, many of which fall into two groups ― saucer magnolias and star-flowered types ― that perform well from San Diego to Seattle and in milder parts of the mountain region.

Saucer-flowered magnolias
Also known as tulip trees, these form 3- to 6-inch-wide, tulip-shaped flowers.

Star-flowered magnolias
Produce 3- to 6-inch-wide blooms with multiple layers of tepals (petals) that look like starbursts and are often fragrant.

The stems are held in place with a small floral frog, which is obscured by decorative gravel and secured to the bottom with floral clay. 

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