It is still a little too early to begin any outdoor gardening projects but it is the perfect time to bring a little springtime inside. You might not notice anything but early spring blooming shrubs and trees have buds that are just starting to swell. Why not fool them into thinking it is spring and “force” them to bloom inside your house. Indoor forcing is very easy to do provided you choose the right shrubs and trees, and follow a few simple steps.
Shrubs and trees that bloom in the spring are the plants that can be forced to bloom indoors. Forsythia, quince, pussy willow and spirea are shrubs that are easy to force and take little time to bloom indoors. Apple, peach and cherry are good trees to use for forcing in our area. I usually force the forsythia and spirea because of their abundance in mine and my neighbor’s garden. Pussy willow is not as colorful as the blooming shrubs but who can resist those soft caterpillar-like buds.
Use your pruners to cut a few branches on a day when the temperatures are above freezing. Cut each branch all the way back to the main stem – you can cut them to the desired length later for your arrangement. Immediately put them in water. As you select from the branches you have brought inside you will need to give them a fresh cut just prior to placing in the arrangement. Pound the fresh cut end with a hammer to split the end, giving the branch a better means to drink water. Quickly place it in the vase. Water, warmth and bright sunlight are what force the branches to bloom prematurely inside. Don’t let the vase go dry otherwise you will have to cut and hammer the ends again. Similar to cut flowers the branches will scab over quickly if they are out of water for any length of time. Misting your arrangement also helps keep the moisture around the branches. Place the arrangement in a sunny location back a little from cold windows. The forcing into bloom can take from a few days to a few weeks depending on how close the plant is to its natural blooming time when you cut them.
So experiment and see how many different spring blooming shrubs/trees you can get to bloom inside! I tried a horse chestnut branch once, but the bloom was not as pretty as they are hanging in the trees. The forsythia is a good one to try if you are new at forcing. And speaking of the forsythia, gardeners refer to this shrub as an “indicator plant“. Once in full bloom we know that the soil is above 45 degrees and roots are becoming active in the ground. The yellow blooms tell you it’s time to prune back your roses and fertilize trees and shrubs – all those except the spring blooming ones like the forsythia.