In January and February, winter flirts with spring. Despite snow on the ground, there will be occasional warm days, balmy breezes and stunning blue skies that remind us of the rich colors of spring. On these flirtatious days, quince, forsythia and pussy willow begin to emerge from dormancy. With this slight swelling of buds, it is time to cut a few branches to bring spring indoors, so even when winter reappears with the next freeze or storm, we’re reminded of the warmer times to come.
Just like forcing bulbs, forcing branches will bring their buds into full beauty even if the outside weather isn’t quite right yet. To force branches, select plants that have set their buds in the fall or early winter. Look for branches with plump flower buds, and cut branches that you would have normally pruned in order to preserve the shape and health of the plant.
Next, scrape about 2 inches of the bark from the pruned end of the branch and make a 3-5 inch cut up the branch (lengthwise from the pruned end) to allow water to be absorbed. You can also split the end by carefully hammering it, but avoid crushing the tissues. Fill a tall container or vase with room-temperature water and floral preserver, then place the cut branches in it. Place the arrangement in a dimly lit room for 2-3 days, then move into a brighter area (but no direct sunlight). Change the water and cut 1 inch off the bottom of the stem each week. Mist the branches daily. Although they may take up to 3 weeks to bloom, the delightful bursts of color will be a celebrated reward for your time and efforts.
Flowering Branches for Forcing
Depending on when you want your buds to bloom, there are a variety of great branches you can work to force into brilliance even when spring is weeks away.
- Witch Hazel
- Cornelian Cherry
- Pussy Willow
- Flowering Quince
For Later Blooms…
- Crab Apple
- Flowering Dogwood
- Red Bud
Decorating With Forced Branches
There are many different ways you can add a little spring glory to your interior décor with forced branches. Consider…
- Using blooming branches in lieu of any flowers in vases.
- Putting shorter branches in bud vases on a windowsill.
- Adding branches to candle centerpieces or other arrangements.
- Twining thinner branches around a wreath form.
- Using the tallest branches in a tall, thin floor vase.
Spring will be here before you know it, and you can speed it along when you force branches to enjoy their blooms a few weeks early!