It is large-scale, mechanical hedge-cutting season here in the Fens. The rule of thumb is to get it all done before the end of February, before the birds start nesting in earnest. Most of the time the results have the same effect as edging a lawn, it all looks tidy and sharp. Sometimes though the farmer has not used the right or sharp enough tool and the result is a mess.
So, in the spirit of wanting to enjoy and celebrate the beauty and variety of trees in our local hedgerows before they are cut (or mauled), I gathered a bunch of twigs to put in a vase when I was out walking the dog. The twigs really are diverse and colourful.
I laid them out on some black felt to show off the colours:
From left to right these twigs are from: Elder, lime, willow, oak, sycamore (and a second dark leaved maple), ash, dogwood, field maple, white poplar, alder. I left the prickly hawthorn and blackthorn alone!
The felt backdrop worked quite well as a contrast, except for the ash, with its unmistakable black bud scales. So I’ve taken a close-up of that to illustrate how beautifully knobbly and sculptural it is, particularly the termination on older branches.
Lime is a particular joy to pick, because the twigs are such a bright red. I use them at christmas too, when I hang baubles on them. At least, they are bright red on one side, on the sheltered, shaded side the tones are much greener:
I also love the way they zig-zag from one leaf axil to the next.
Perhaps the most surprising find was that the elder is so far advanced. Not only has there been massive bud-burst and first leaf showing, but the flowers are also well formed.
As a bonus, this display will last for ages. (My large christmas display has in fact rooted and really needs to be moved out of the house!)
I am joining with Cathy’s In a vase on Monday meme, where there is a celebration of green and some lovely imaginative spring vases.
I just love this! You’ve inspired me to heat outside right now, with clippers, and see what I can find. I had read Cathy’s post this morning and while I was outside found some Russian Sage branches that had broken so I collected them up and quickly put them in water inside. Thanks for sharing your pre-spring beauty.
Sounds great. Go for it. There’s plenty to be found ….. pussy willow is now breaking for instance. I just love those furry buds! Thanks for the link btw. Your twigs look fantastic against the wood and I love your cat.
Lovely idea! I love this colourful vase and would happily give it room at home, I will be off to cut some stems of my own.
Thanks. For colour what I really need is a collection of dogwood and willow. Nevertheless I was surprised by the variety I found in the hedges and actually I enjoyed the different textures and branching habits.
My goodness what a fabulous idea to prune your twigs and make a colorful vase! Mine are dormant now so i try not to prune until we warm a bit more.
Thanks Donna. The bunch started out red and green, but grew and grew as I walked. These weren’t so much prunings as bits snapped off ahead of the hedging machines.
I pruned the Sambucus nigra last week reducing it by 50 cm all round and brought the stems in for a vase with some early daffodils. They looked lovely and now i wish I’d photographed them there’s something cheering about early buds on stems in Winter.
That does sound cheerful. Did you see any flowers forming on your prunings? I can’t believe how advanced they are. I make elderflower pop in May usually!
What a fascinating array of stems – and I am amazed at the colour of the lime. Do you know which lime it is? I will be off to inspect our small leaved limes tomorrow! Such an intersting post – and a title after my own heart too…thanks for sharing 🙂
I find it hard to resist newspaper style titles! I believe that those limes are the small leaved form and the Woodland Trust use the dual tone of the twig as an identifier for this lime:
I’d have never believed that such a pretty vase could be created with a collection of stems before seeing yours!
Thank you ….. I know that cornus and salix can come in amazing colours, but I was very pleased that everyday hedge plants had such a good range too.
This is wonderful – what a great twig harvest! I’m so glad you laid them out against the black so that we could get a good look at them. They make a beautiful arrangement.
Thanks Eliza. I am looking at them today wondering how so much pollen has fallen from the opening catkins of the alder and poplar already!
Great post! Who’d have guessed there was so much potential in the tangle of winter hedgerows to produce such a beautiful vase. Thank you, the choice of black background was inspired.
Thanks Kate. In the house they are against a white wall and it isn’t as effective as against a dark backdrop, except for the ash of course!
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What a great idea, your twigs look fantastic. I used to have Tilia platyphyllos ‘Rubra’ in a previous garden, it was a joy in winter. Does the lime root in water?
No, at least it hasn’t yet. That comment was a bit misleading. It was a mixed vase and the roots are from the dogwood and willow, but they are amazingly vigorous. I’d never even noticed what lime was like until I did a RHS horticulture course and was forced to do weekly IDs!
I love twigs and buds…and showing them on that backdrop really shows how varied they are. I love twigs with lichen too as shown in my vase this week. Its also a great way to root a new hedgerow if needed.
I think that your vase is very beautiful. I pick up lichen encrusted twigs too, because I love the lime green colours. Do you find it drops off really quickly though?
Great idea for a vase. I’m glad you annotated each stem. Very helpful.
You are welcome. I hestitated to go further in their naming since there are so many hybrids around, especially in the hedges containing willow and poplar.
Beautiful vase and a good lesson too!
Thanks …. I love that I learn things writing a blog too.
Seeing them laid out like that is such an eye-opener, isn’t it! The colours of the stems and bud forms are all so unique. Love the idea of putting them all in a big vase too.Your elder is amazingly far advanced, Our flower buds won’t form for at least another 2 months, so I am wondering if we have a different sort. I must look that up!
I think that that particular elder is in a particularly favourable spot, others around it just have multiple leaves out. The stems and buds are very distinctive, so I don’t know why I never manage to identify an unknown tree using ID keys.