Sweet Magnolia

Remember Kathleen Turner, the beautiful throaty actress from Body Heat, Romancing the Stone and The War of the Roses?

Years ago she wrote a book entitled Send Yourself Roses, which advocates being kind and indulgent to yourself. Today, it’s called self care, that phrase women are always talking about, but rarely do.

I love the idea, and I know plenty of women who buy flowers during their weekly grocery store runs. But they’re not married to the Curmudgeon. Every time there’s a fresh bunch of flowers on the kitchen table, he says “Flowers? What’s the occasion?”

This means that every time I head into the supermarket floral department, I must weigh whether it’s worth buying the $8.99 mixed seasonal bouquet. I usually leave empty handed, as I did when I passed on adorable tiny daffodils and big fat tulips.

But I wanted them, I really did. And I probably would’ve bought them if it wasn’t 6 degrees outside. I worried that they might freeze between the store, my car and the house.

I don’t know why some items are no brainers, while others prompt an internal debate. Flowers, scented jar candles ($19.99!), $4.99 gourmet chocolate bars, saffron and vanilla beans catch my eye, but I pass because I can’t justify the expense. I think it’s a holdover from the early days of our marriage.

The Curmudgeon and I lived on my meager reporter’s salary, which was bare bones even by 1980s standards, while he went to law school. It was humbling, but I learned to pinch pennies. I never bought flowers because they were a luxury we couldn’t afford.

But today, I don’t think of them as an extravagance. They’re a little thing that makes me feel good, like an ice cream sundae without the calories. I crave flowers, particularly when the doldrums are at an all-time high.

By now, everyone but the most diehard skiers is sick of winter. We know that spring is near – we can almost taste it – but there’s still the matter of March. Over the past week, about a foot of snow has fallen on southern New England and the temperature has hovered around 20 degrees.

March is Old Man Winter’s way of showing us who’s boss. Like a nagging cold that lingers for weeks, it sneaks back just when you think it’s gone for one last hurrah. It will leave in its own time, when it’s good and ready. And there’s nothing can do about it except hunker down, organize drawers and binge watch Netflix.

At this point, there’s no color in the Northeast. The sky is often battleship gray, and the landscape is a mixture of grays, browns and faded gold. When we could still hike – before the trails froze over – my dog faded into the straw-colored grass lining the woods. Now, she blends in with the phragmites and sand at a nearby state beach, the only place we can navigate.

My tawny-colored dog Cali blends in with the scenery in late winter.

My house looks like a barren stretch of landscape too. It needs flowers or a few blooming plants to inject some life and energy. But there’s the Curmudgeon to be considered. I don’t want to start a war of the roses over, well, roses.

Enter my flowering trees and shrubs, which explode in color every spring, but quickly fade into the background. Two overgrown forsythias on the property line provide a splash of yellow, but are quickly overshadowed by other bloomers, including my favorite magnolias and lilacs.

I often force branches for an economical dose of spring. Forcing takes time, but the reward is well worth it. For the investment of a little time and a water, you get a jump on springtime color.

I cut some forsythia and magnolia branches on Feb. 1st and put them in a few inches of water. The forsythia bloomed within about three weeks, while the magnolia bloomed after five weeks.

The magnolia is splendid, much better than I imagined when I cut it in the depths of winter. Big plump purplish pink flowers are emerging from their furry shells in vibrant contrast to the delicate branches.

Those who love magnolias know that they’re in bloom a woefully short period of time. We wait all year for it to bloom and then we blink and the petals are blanketing the ground. Forcing gives an up close and personal sneak peek, a glimpse of spring and what’s to come.

With spring taking its sweet time getting here, I’ll be heading out with the clippers again this week for some lilacs. It will take about a month for them to bloom, but that’s OK. The anticipation of what’s to come is almost as exciting as the actual blooms.

16 thoughts on “Sweet Magnolia

  1. There’s a whole school of thought that the anticipation and planning is often better than the actual event…..but on another note….buy flowers and tell your husband what to do with if he asks…..😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I learn much from your blogs. This one introduced me to self-care, phragmites, and forcing, all new terms to me. I know, I need to get out more.
    And Body Heat was a great movie. That I knew about.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Loved this one! When I was growing up, my mother used to force small branches of forsythia to bloom for my March birthday every year. Even after I left home, she’d send me a few of the bloomed cuttings wrapped in damp paper towel tucked inside an envelope, my little burst of spring. I miss that. Thanks for reminding me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have great luck with branches. But I can’t for the life of me force a lot of bulbs except paper whites. I had an amaryllis bulb around Christmas that NEVER bloomed, and that’s not the first time.


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