There are just over 50 days of winter left before spring starts, and many of us are just dying to see a little spring color in our homes. One of the best ways to do this in late winter is to force flowering branches. The term forcing refers to cutting a piece off of spring flowering trees and shrubs and bringing the branches indoors. Once indoors they are put into warm water so they can force into bloom. While their natural bloom time may not be for a month or two, the tree or shrub you cut for forcing will bring an early spring within days or weeks, depending on how close they are to their natural bloom time.
In order to force flowering branches you’ll need it to be late winter. There should have been at least 6 weeks of cold or they won’t bloom indoors. Once you choose your branches for forcing (pussy willow, forsythia, apple, and flowering cherry are great choices), grab a clean set of pruners (using alcohol or hydrogen peroxide is a good idea for cleaning to ensure that you don’t spread disease to the tree) and cut branches to the desired length. Keep the shape of your arrangement in mind when choosing flowering branches. Proper pruning techniques require that your cuts are clean and smooth. Do not leave stubs of branches without leaf buds and do not tear the branches. Remember, you want these trees to thrive all spring and summer, so don’t set them up for failure by damaging them or introducing disease.
Once you have cut the branches you desire, trim and discard any parts you don’t want to keep in your arrangement. After you’ve shaped your branches, cut the ends at an angle and smash them with a hammer a few times to spread the wood. This will improve water uptake and help the branches to bloom. You may add floral preservatives to the warm water if you like to help them last longer.
Ever few days you’ll want to cut and hit the branch ends with the hammer again to keep the flowers lasting as long as possible.
Forcing flowering can be a great alternative to cut flowers in late winter and can really bring an early taste of spring to your home. Put your branches in narrow necked bottles to be sure they stay upright and you’ll have a breathtaking display that can last weeks with proper care.