Rob D. Brodman

Clever ways to show off the first signs of spring

Nan Sterman,  – December 3, 2007

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.