In a Vase on Monday: Hedging my bets


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.


Ash’s distinctive winter form

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:


Lime twigs: showing the red (sunshine facing side) and the green (shaded side)

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.


About Frogend_dweller

Living in the damp middle of nowhere
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27 Responses to In a Vase on Monday: Hedging my bets

  1. 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.

  2. Julie says:

    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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. Cathy says:

    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 🙂

  6. Kris P says:

    I’d have never believed that such a pretty vase could be created with a collection of stems before seeing yours!

  7. Eliza Waters says:

    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.

  8. 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.

  9. Pingback: Force Winter Twigs For Indoor Spring Color | Pioneering The Simple Life

  10. Chloris says:

    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!

  11. Noelle says:

    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.

  12. pbmgarden says:

    Great idea for a vase. I’m glad you annotated each stem. Very helpful.

  13. Beautiful vase and a good lesson too!

  14. Cathy says:

    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.

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