weeder’s digest by sarah ryhanen


After much consideration, I think my favorite name for this column is Weeders Digest. So lets go with it…Thanks for all your suggestions. Each comment is like a little gift, and I’m so excited to read them as they come in. You all have been so kind to voice your support and enthusiasm! I am so grateful.

I wanted to say something today about winter, since it clear it’s never ending.
Although I can tough out the winter as much as the next Finn, seasonal doldrums effect the best of us, and I fall victim every year. This is about the time when it starts; I’ll catch myself casually scanning through Cormac McCarthy novels, or googleing things like “nuclear winter” or “root canal.” Last night I watched a dozen live Janet Jackson videos to see if there exists one in which she’s not lip-synching. No luck – and my depression deepens. Eric may try to cheer me up; “Want to eat combos for dinner and listen to Rumours on repeat?” Sigh. This is serious.

In the world of flowers and plants January is can be a dead zone. The wholesale market is half-empty. Vendors stand around discussing traffic on the Long Island Expressway, or the latest narc stake-out on 28th street. I buy a handful of stems and hail a cab. On the way home I see a new tag near Chambers Street; someone has scrawled in big yellow cursive “ROD STEWART LOVES THE HAMPTONS.” Times are tough I think.



I look at the roots that have grown out of an old jar of curly willow branches by my bedside. They provide a subtle reminder of natures latent winter progress. Then I find a clover growing out of an old empty pot. It’s almost insulting.


Later at home I brainstorm what to have for lunch. I settle on ice cream. Then I proceed to watch 5 old episodes of Gossip Girl*, move all my plants to the tub**, turn on the shower, and get in with them. My bathroom has become an asylum for all things left living this winter. This is nice I think. Did I have a meeting today?

Later, at dinner we discuss grey flowers. Aaron thinks they should breed more grey flowers. He’s a hybrid enthusiast.

Aaron: I think you should consider genetic modification more seriously – like if you hired someone to grow you a square flower.

Me: What would be the advantage of a square flower?

Eric: Designers would love it, you could put them together like pixels…

Aaron: Plus, you’d be the first florist in the United States to have square flowers. I think it would be worth it just for the notoriety. Of course you’d have to trademark it, or someone would steal your idea.

I get up to clean the dishes.


Today I opened an old book in our work room and found flowers Eric must have pressed last summer. They are papery specimens, worthy of cataloging. I pin them to the wall. His foresight to do such a thing makes me feel proud.


In our business, one of the saving graces of January is the start of budding season. Branches that are brought inside to force the blossoms open early. After ages of nothing but evergreens and magnolia leaves, Quince blossoms start to appear just before Chinese New Year. White, pink and red. Next thing you know the market floods with forsythia, magnolia blossoms, spiraea and dogwood. Most flowering branches are beautiful, long lasting (often they will leaf out after the blossoms die) and dramatic. Hammer the stems to split the ends – they’ll be able to drink more water – and place them in a sunny window. Change the water once a week or so.

For me, its the best time of year for flowers. So much promise amidst all the antifreeze and sniffles. Lets clean the house and bring something small and green indoors! Lets plan a bigger, better rooftop garden! One where we don’t have to risk our lives carrying buckets of water up a iron wrung latter! I have to remember to take it one step at a time. First, I’ll remove all the dead flowers from my apartment. Clean all the vases, and bring in something new.

* If you didn’t know, flowers play a big part in the show. Blair Waldorf always has fresh flowers in her foyer. They tend to match her outfits. Also, Lilly, Serena’s mother is always having a wedding, or planning a benefit and has to deal with the florist. She says things like “Too funerary” or “I asked for Cymbidiums not Hyacinths!” I don’t need to tell you that this is valuable research material for me.

** This is actually a really excellent remedy for your plants in the winter time. Almost all plants can take a good soaking this time of year, even succulents. For our sensitive plants, we leave them in the bathroom for the winter months – the moisture does them wonders.

jennifer

sarah, you are a beacon in this wintery unending nonsense. will you please write a book? it could be about anything really and I’m sure it would still be fascinating.

Jasmin Trenary

I have managed to get some rose stems to root. (I did nothing but neglect them on a window sill) everything I read online says then when other people managed this, the roses died when they tried to plant them. Any suggestions? The roots won’t fit the vase much longer.

Kara

You are a great writer- so entertaining! Minnesota has the longest winters in the world, so I am so lucky to have a boyfriend with a green thumb. We get a lot of light in our apartment and our plants have exploded! I feel better waking up to tons of living things inside when everything outside will be dead for 4 more months. I think my bathroom plants are the happiest plants of all.

enhabiten

I think this little segment from your guest florist is going to become one of my favorite reads. I wanna be her friend and cheer her up and watch gossip girl with her. Ya gotta love gossip girl.

Cat W.

I really love the narrative style of your post, and the name–so cute. So looking forward to the dogwood outside my window to start blooming, mostly so I can find out if it is, indeed a dogwood.

Cara

I’m so excited about this column! I live in Norway and understand how important it is to have many plants inside during the long winter. With such short, gentle bursts of sunlight I find myself feeling much like the plants- straining desperately for a little warmth. Unfortunately my bathroom is just too dark- I’ve tried. Thanks for a very pretty melancholy day

Sarah

JAsmin – I think with the roses, you have to introduce them to soil inside, before you put them in your garden. Rinse the roots off gently, and losely pot in some soil. put the pot in your SUNNIEST window. water just enough to keep the soil from drying out completely. if the roots take, then you can put it outdoors this spring. this is a hard thing to accomplish – rooting from a cut rose, but you can do it with luck. be careful not to over water, the roots will rot fast.

Sarah

sarah, my sister and i love you. we believe you to be related to us in some far off distant many times removed way. deadpan humor, a touch of snark and a love of beautiful things, yup, you’re one of us. you are a wonderful addition to d*s.

Rebecca

I love the name and loved this post even more. Since I moved to a dark little house in the arid northern corner of New Mexico, my green thumb has died back. With my mother (the most intense gardener I have ever met) and my hopes of coaxing a green thing to life a few thousand miles away, it’s lovely to read about quince and forsythia and refreshing to look at your beautiful photos.

Mary Lee

Hey Sarah- great column! I just discovered your blog from Josh F. and was thrilled to find you here, too. I wanted to congratulate you on all of your beautiful work. Gorgeous photos and engaging words.

P.

So true about winter – it’s a time of possibility. For instance, I just bought two bareroot David Austin roses, which are sitting at the post office because I’m too lazy to pick them up. I will plant them and pray.

Your new column rocks my world because you mentioned forsythia and Rod Stewart in the same post. Can we do Salt n’ Peppa in the next installment? xox, P.

Fashion Archives

These are gorgeous pictures and flowers! I absolutely love winter but I can see that as a florist it would get kind of tough! Good luck beating the bum :(

lilly

Can you please tell me more about flowering branches? Where do you get them and how long does it take them to flower?

Bonnie

Will winter ever end? Yes! There was a very distinctive morning when I felt warmth in the air (it was 36 degrees instead of 12) and I heard the pitter pattering of snow melting and dripping off. It was like this for 3 whole days, I almost wore shorts it was so encouraging! My husband and I are all ready eager to plan our garden and keep thinking of ways to jump start the growing season and on ways to obtain a rototiller and taking pictures of the only thing that isn’t gray and bleak , bright red rose hips!

Jen

I love your writing. Here in Vancouver it is raining 10 months a year, and dark in the winter, but I noticed last week the sun set at 4:45, not 4:30… and my bulbs are sprouting. Things are looking up.

sarah

love this new column! your writing style is so enjoyable, a great addition to design*sponge. it’s led me to your other blog at saipua. and to share the guilty pleasure of gossip girl … i’ll be watching for the flowers that match blair’s outfits from now on.

Sarah

lilly – you can call any florist and ask for them. Right now in the tri-state area we can get quince, forsithia, and limited magnolia blossoms. Ask for “tight” buds, which means they have not started to open yet. Tight quince will go through the opening to leaf phase in about 2-3 weeks. A long time to have flowers!

Erin

I really like this new column! I myself have a bit of a black thumb, so I’m really looking forward to learning from you. (Though I have managed to keep my first ever houseplant alive for the last 15 months, which is a big step.) I also love the great images you include. Big kudos :)

linney

lovely post. could you give a tutorial on pressing flowers? those are lovely!

tess

What a wonderful column: fantastic writing (the best on this site), tons of information, and an expert who understands the limitations & glories of incorporating live into tiny urban apartments! Yay!!!

Mouse

I love this column. Great name that you chose!

I’d love to hear more on succulents. Mine are throwing a tantrum. I will take them for a bath right away.

Annemarie

Love the name and the column! I should try growing plants in my tiny bathroom- it’s almost the only room in my house with direct sunlight :(

Kate

I’m going to add to the chorus of praise for your writing style! A really good read.

Marisol

Ohh I love your blog but this post has really touched me because I love plants! Such nice pictures!
Thanks

kelly

i too giggle at the “I asked for Cymbidiums not Hyacinths!” and always wonder what happen to the flowers after the shoot, hopefullt they go to a good home, if not i could arrange for them to come to mine…
bought my house a year and a half ago and just this past fall got around to the bulbs and now just sit excitedly waiting for all 3,000 tulips, hyacinths, daffodil and fruitilaria to show themselves and amke winter go away!
great column!

Tiffany

This made me laugh out loud! And I’m loving this new column–entertaining and educational! :-) It makes me wish I lived in a house with more windows, rather than a townhouse with a pitiful lack of windows and window sills…

Sarah

Mouse! wait! if your succulents are not doing well, they may be getting too much water!! Thats a very common problem with them. Succulents (like jade plants, ecchevaria, etc) really only need a a few tablespoons of water every week, or every other week. if that…they need to be nice a dry all the time. I said you can take them to the shower, assuming you’ve been keeping them very dry otherwise. I have my succulents in the sunniest window in my apt. and they are bone dry, happy suckers. i mean succulents.

Laura

I guess I’m showing my age when I think about the Northern Exposure episode when they have to have an intervention over the SAD goggles, I’m still looking for them on ebay! Great column, I laughed all the way thru. I’m sending my husband out to walk thru the thigh-high snow to the forsythia bush to take some cuttings now!

Christie T

you are a wonderful writer, very engaging and heartfelt. i LOVE your post!
XOXO
—–are you blair or serena?

cassie

i love this column! after reading the post on anemones i ran around town trying to find some white ones with black centers. as for the ranunculas i will have to wait until the bulbs i planted (hopefully) come up this spring. thanks again for a great column!

sarah

i. love. your. writing. it’s hilarious. ice cream for lunch, i’m there. i am totally going to try this blooming branch thing. thank goodness for this lovely column!

sally

thank god i live in california, so i don’t have to spend the winter having combos for dinner and listen to rumo….wait, i do that anyway!

ebrown

I love deciduous magnolias and the pear trees that are blossoming now. Here and there clumps of calla lilies are starting to unfurl. And while I’ve seen no forsythia as yet the quinces are blooming. And while a few paperwhites and snowdrops are blooming, it’s time to decide whether to prune the old-fashioned roses or let them go this year. Yes, I live in California. Sorry.

Jill

GREY flowers – the brilliance is unbelievable! Can they also have IKAT-inspired foliage? I want to mix them in with my chartreuse hellebores which are just starting to peak.

dv

Love the name you chose for this column ;) And I’m looking forward to more wonderfully written posts!

Cyth

You ARE a breath of Spring. I feel renewed , just as I was about to hit the wall.

christina

i am so excited about your column!
winter is such an integral time for flowers/nature and if we don’t look carefully, it can look like very little is happening. winter is a great time to focus on what’s happening inside with plants (and for people, introspection). my house looks a bit like yours – every empty space on countertops/ledges filled with a plant – and the bathroom is home to cuttings sitting on the radiator (a mini greenhouse?). (i work at a florist and am preparing to ‘go back to school’ for landscape design.)

yeye

Yes, more on succulents. In 1 year I’ve managed to kill 90% of mine. My understanding from the local florist is I was watering too much (and i was really trying to pace myself) — the idea of putting them in the bathtub conjures images of a succulent graveyard. plus winter I heard they are supposed to be watered even LeSS!!!

please clarify why you would say something like this!!?! did you mean, just put them in the bathroom to enjoy a steam treatment?

enhabiten

i know i know, this is an old article. and i must really be procrastinating to come back here to leave another comment. will anyone read it, will anyone care..but i just accidentally stumbled on the blog of the flower girl who is the new guest you know here, and i read more old posts than…well, i feel like a stalker. but she totally, really, cracks me up. seriously. just wanted to share.

linney

i love the column. thanks so much!

i have noticed the floral trend lately to have pretty and often minimal dried arrangements instead of fresh cut flowers. stuff like wheat, pussy willow or eucalyptus. could you do a column on the best varieties for drying?

thanks!!

kim

Ha, you shower with your plants, I used to take baths with my pet turtles (no foam of course).

Thanks for the hammering tip, my mom always puts up branches of forsythia.

And Gossip Girl rules!

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