ISSUE 104  |  Best of 2013

DIY: The Magical Powers of White Cherry Blossoms

March 28, 2016 2:00 AM

BY Erin Boyle

Every March growing up, I watched my mom wield a large pair of hedge clippers and go at the forsythia that edged our front yard. She’d fill a tall cut-glass vase with the naked branches and a little warm water. In the center spot on our sunny kitchen table, the spindly branches would fluff up with brilliant yellow buds within a week. Getting permission to prune my neighbors’ bushes has been a somewhat more difficult task here in Brooklyn.

Luckily for me, flower shops have caught on to the spirit-lifting powers of flowering branches. They stock up. Lately, cherry blossoms have begun to appear in shop windows and cafés around Brooklyn, so the other day I went to my local florist and walked home with an armload. I figured that even if a trip to Japan to see the cherry blossoms wasn’t in the cards this year, I could recreate the magic in my own apartment.

Photography by Erin Boyle.

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Above: If you’re anything like me, walking down city streets carrying a bundle of Kraft paper-wrapped branches will make you feel like a fairy queen brandishing an oversized and flowery scepter. At lengths of 4 or 5 feet, cherry blossom branches will turn the head of even the most hardened New Yorker.

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Above: Florists typically stock both white and pink cherry branches; I opted for white.

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Above: If you don’t have a good pair of pruners at home, you might consider asking your florist to trim the branches. While not too difficult to trim with the right tools, cherry branches are relatively thick and require a bit of muscle to cut to size. Because of the diminutive size of my apartment, I decided to cut off about a foot of branch, leaving me with branches that still stood higher than 4 feet.

700_cherry-branches-and-carafeAbove: The best way I’ve found to arrange large branches is to place a vase directly on the floor. This way, I can manipulate the branches with less risk of knocking artwork off the walls or otherwise causing damage. Having leverage above the branches makes the whole process much simpler.

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Above: I used this oversized bedside carafe as a vase because it was sturdy enough to support the weight of the branches and tall enough to forestall tipping.

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Above: With fresh changes of water, blossomed cherry branches will last for a week or two indoors. I purchased branches whose buds had already unfolded, but if you’d like to witness the unfurling, choose branches with buds that are still tight. You’ll be able to enjoy the beauty for even longer.

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Above: If you have access to a flowering tree of your own, all the better. Consider giving springtime a jump start and prune a few branches directly from your own tree. In my years as a country girl, I successfully forced forsythia, dogwood, cherry, and quince with very little effort. Use a good pair of pruners to make your initial cuts and then use garden scissors or a knife to make several small slits in the base of your branches to encourage water absorption. Within a few weeks, you’ll have flowering branches, indoors.

There is so much more I want to tell you. See Ikebana Arrangement with Magnolia; 5 Favorites: The Best Pruning Knifes; 5 Favorites: Pruners.

N.B.: This is an update of a post originally published March 11, 2013 during our Do-It-Yourself week.