Branching Out

3 Feb

A free table arrangement.

While walking on my block last week, I noticed some cut branches piled at the curb.

This not unusual.

In our city, yard waste is picked up from the street with a mechanical scoop, something like a forklift, but with a spoon instead of a fork.  The spoonlift deposits the leaves, sticks, and grass clippings into a larger second vehicle.  Some cities have bins and only one machine, which seems more efficient from my point of view, but I will admit that the spoonlift is fun to watch.

These particular branches caught my attention because they had buds on them.

I worked at a florist shop for several years, where we sometimes used branches in our arrangements.  Cuts of bright yellow Forsythia and flexible, curly willow would blossom or sprout leaves when left in water, adding structure and a touch of Spring to any arrangement.

I had found a free centerpiece, lying in the street!  It was my lucky day.

I had just passed by an hour before, and the branches had not been there, so I knew they were fresh.  I took the smaller branches home and cut them for use in a vase.  The remaining branches were soon collected from the street, and I counted the blessing of my good timing in finding some to take home before they were scooped away.

I have had the pleasure of seeing the branches bloom and sprout this week, and would like to share my pleasure with you.

Have you ever wondered how Navel Oranges got their name?

Day two. A cluster of buds.

The oranges came from our dwarf orange tree.  Our recent weeks of frost have made the fruit bitter, but they still look good in a bowl.

Day five. Blossoms are starting to show.

Day five. The same cluster of buds.

The buds started white, turned pink, and then whitened again as the flowers opened.  I suspect they are apple blossoms, or maybe pear.

Some people do not have the patience to wait for flowers to open slowly.  At the florist shop, we sometimes sent out budded Cymbidium orchid plants, staked with willow branches, tied with a ribbon and nestled in moss.

We received calls from irate gift senders, demanding to know why their money had paid for only “sticks in a pot”.

We might try in vain to explain that the orchid plant would hold its elegant blooms for three months, and that it would only take the flowers a few days to open, but the explanation usually didn’t satisfy them…even when we told them the plant was worth more than they had paid and they had gotten a deal.

Some customers would rather give older flowers, those that have already reached their peak and will soon be past it.  They want instant (short-lived) gratification.

Day six. Starting to open.

I have tried to educate friends and family about choosing flowers with an expectation of their future potential.

A bundle of small, green, stubby tulips will not remain so.  It will grow and change with each day, with stems lengthening, buds changing color, expanding, and twisting toward the nearest light source.

This process, to me, is infinitely more interesting than a bundle of fully colored, fully open tulips that will fade and drop their petals in a day or two.

I appreciate the surprise of not knowing for certain what the color of the blooms will be.

Day six. Afternoon, fully open.

The stages of growth in a flower are like the stages of growth in a child.  I am not attached to a single stage; I find them all intriguing.

The next time you purchase flowers, let them be a little bit green, a little bit tight.

Day seven. Spring has arrived.

When you look at the trees or shrubs in your yard, keep in mind that most clippings will look good in a vase, or even a jelly jar.

Any Fall leaves, Spring growth, flowering branches, and even dry twigs can be beautiful — especially mixed together in varied textures and colors.

Day eight. Gorgeous.

And you can’t beat the price:  free.

27 Responses to “Branching Out”

  1. David Jensen February 3, 2011 at 7:46 am #

    Fine item on scavenging for beauty. I know of professional florists who would scour the streets for fresh cuttings, including stuff that cannot be purchased through floral wholesalers. My recommendation: Try it. Be sure to cut off the ends of clippings when you bring them home and stick them immediately in fresh water.

    • acleansurface February 3, 2011 at 9:51 am #

      David, I’m glad you liked it. I like your phrase “scavenging for beauty”.

  2. Lindsey Akin February 3, 2011 at 11:30 am #

    Oh my goodness, this is such a coincidence, I was just 5 minutes ago looking through an ideabook on my fave home-decor website, Houzz, about this very same thing:

    I LOVE decorating with branches and other cuttings from the garden, like you said, you can’t beat the price, and it will always look more unique and creative than a ‘perfect’ bouquet.

    • acleansurface February 3, 2011 at 7:06 pm #

      Thanks for sharing that link, Lindsey, there are some terrific ideas to be found in those photos! =)

  3. indyink February 4, 2011 at 7:26 am #

    This is the reason I love blogs. This is so much better than newspaper content. Informative, educational, and charming. Anytime I order flowers, I’m always disappointed when they send a batch that are already open, because they start drooping on day 2.

    Thanks for the advice… I’ll remember it!

    • acleansurface February 4, 2011 at 10:17 am #

      Indyink, what a lovely compliment! I’m glad you stopped by.

  4. drlisachu February 4, 2011 at 10:35 am #

    A beautiful reminder of nature’s pace…beauty unfolds gradually, not when we schedule it on our Blackberry.

    Thanks, Rayme! Look at all your comments! 🙂

    • acleansurface February 4, 2011 at 11:09 am #

      I’m glad you liked it, Lisa.

      Hmmm, now I am thinking about blackberry blossoms. =)

  5. Frankie Ortiz February 4, 2011 at 2:56 pm #

    These bloomed so beautifully. Again, showing that there is beauty in everything. 🙂

  6. Alcantara Acupuncture February 4, 2011 at 6:18 pm #

    Thanks for checking out my blog earlier! I just chanced upon yours, and what a great find on the curb! I absolutely love flowers, and had been an arranger of synthetic flowers at a craft store back in the day. But, of course, I prefer the fresh variety! That’s wonderful that you had the eye to catch those buds, because they turned out to be beautiful.

    • acleansurface February 5, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

      Nice to hear from you, Alcantara. I think it is such a shame that synthetic flowers are often so unrealistic. I have seen some very good ones. If they all looked real, they would be more popular, especially for those allergic to the real thing.

  7. somethingnewplease February 5, 2011 at 10:05 pm #

    I would collect things from the street all the time from the age of 5-21. I never made anything quite so cool, or creative with them. Mostly, they got tossed in the trash.

    I like how your minimalist ideals work.

    • acleansurface February 6, 2011 at 11:16 am #

      One of my boys was keeping a sealed plastic bag full of damp dead leaves, for some reason. That went into the trash.

  8. Aligaeta February 6, 2011 at 8:32 am #

    Thank you for the touch of spring to a whitest, snowiest, winter in NY.

    • acleansurface February 6, 2011 at 11:20 am #

      I am happy to share some of our California privileges, Aligaeta. I remember one year when our winter was so mild, our rose bushes bloomed all year long!

  9. sunshineinlondon February 6, 2011 at 1:50 pm #

    Beautiful! I saw some glimpses of cherry blossom in a park in London yesterday.
    Your story and photos are lovely, and so beautifully shared – there is a significant life story in there too, not only about delayed gratification, but about beauty developing from something that you might otherwise discard. Thank you.
    Sunshine xx

    • acleansurface February 6, 2011 at 4:30 pm #

      What a nice compliment, Sunshine. Yes, beauty is hidden at times, and we must know where to look for it.

  10. jmlindy422 February 7, 2011 at 7:01 am #

    Checking you out after you checked me out. I love this post. Thanks for reminding me to go prune my fruit trees and bring the clippings inside. Here in Illinois, flowering branches make the winter go more quickly. They are also a good arrangement for Chinese New Year, especially plum blossom.

    • acleansurface February 7, 2011 at 8:51 am #

      I wish I had my own tree! Thanks for visiting, JM.

  11. Madeline February 18, 2011 at 4:34 pm #

    Hi just stopping by from Singapore.

    I love this post. It reminds me of the time when my hubby bought me some flowers on valentines day (I think) and the florist ran out of full bloom bouquets and he had to make do with the ones with buds instead. The florist told with him that it will last longer. Initially I felt it was kinda weird receiving them but really enjoyed the process of watching them bloom.

    You’re so lucky to find branches just lying around. We live in the city with nothing but dust on the streets.

    • acleansurface February 19, 2011 at 11:23 am #

      Thanks for visiting, madeline! I’m sorry to hear about your dusty streets. I am very lucky, indeed.

  12. Michelle February 21, 2011 at 11:19 am #

    What a wonderful post! I love watching flowers open and change… and I’m so excited to now know to keep an eye out for budding branches to bring home, too!

    • acleansurface February 21, 2011 at 11:33 am #

      Glad you liked it, Michelle! I hope you find some.

  13. tabehodai March 3, 2011 at 1:22 am #

    It’s the first time I’m reading your blog. You sure have an eye for beauty!

    I can’t believe that you picked up plum blossoms from the street. I had to pay for mine for Chinese New Year.

    I’m sure your optimism will help in making your move smooth.

    Best wishes.


  1. Change « A Clean Surface. - February 9, 2011

    […] I took some pictures of Spring branches and used them in a post.  The branches were bare to start with, but tiny buds turned to flowers and a few leaves.  The […]

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