Best branches for forcing

Forsythia in bloom.

Forsythia in bloom.

It seems to happen every year–we get a good taste of spring and then the season takes its sweet time moving in. What is an antsy gardener to do? Cutting branches and bringing them in for forcing help get the season rolling before Mother nature, aka MoNa, is quite ready to get things blooming in earnest. Bringing bloom inside can lift your spirits during the blustery cool days of March.

The nice thing about bringing twigs in to force bloom and budding is that it dovetails nicely with another early spring practice–trimming shrubs and small trees while they are still semi-dormant to improve shape and air circulation.

Redtwig dogwood

Redtwig dogwood

Not surprisingly, some of the twigs featured in last week’s blog on spring containers are the same ones that are great for forcing indoors–forsythia, witchhazel and willow. Add to that twigs from the colorful redtwig dogwood, magnolia, flowering almond and mockorange.

Make sure you have a nice sharp pair of pruners and find some branches that have the fattest buds on them–these are the flower buds. Cut about a quarter inch above a bud, looking for branches that have the most numerous buds on them, in a densely branched area of the shrub to ensure leaving an attractive shape on the shrub.

Pussy willow buds © Dolphfyn Dreamstime.com

Pussy willow buds © Dolphfyn Dreamstime.com

When you get the branches indoors, prepare some water with perservative in it–or make your own–for instance 2 T. of lemon juice, 1 T sugar and 1/2 t. chlorine bleach in a quart of warmish water. Cut your branches at a 45 degree slant and place them in a vase with no more than 3 inches of of your solution and let the vase stand 20 to 30 minutes. Then finish filling the container and place your branches in a cool room (60-65 degrees) until the buds start to open.

You can bring your branches into a brighter, warmer room but keep them out of direct sunlight to ensure maximum life for your branches.