Is it possible to get a head start on spring at home? Here’s a simple way to do it. Cut the tip off the branch of a tree or shrub, place it in a glass of water and leave it right by a window. After a few days you’ll see the buds swell, the scales start to open and a tip of green appear. When the scales drop off, minuscule leaves will stretch out in all their splendor.
To observe the bursting of buds is to discover the beauty and complexity of nature. In comparing different twigs from the same plant we discover that certain buds are bigger than others. The smaller ones, the leaf buds, produce leaves. The bigger ones, known as flower buds or mixed buds, will give us both flowers and leaves. If you put these large-budded twigs in water, you’ll grow flowers in the dead of winter – what a great way to get rid of the mid-winter blues!
A laboratory by the window
In Québec, a number of shrubs flower before producing their leaves. Rhododendron blooms are dark pink. Those of maples resemble tiny bells. Willows produce catkins, whereas the Labrador tea, the viburnum and the saskatoon shrub exhibit lovely bunches of white blooms. But be careful: cut your twig as though you were cutting your tree, with the respect due to nature.
In making the buds on your twigs burst at home, you’re imitating the work of a very special technician at the Biodôme, the one who controls the computer regulating the different ecosystems. On the morning of March 4, he’ll be kicking off spring by raising the temperature in the Laurentian forest ecosystem. That thermal input activates the buds, which will need more light once they open. The technician will readjust the photoperiod accordingly. And it will be time for visitors to take off their scarves and unbutton their jackets.