Forcing branches into full-on flowers is a simple garden fix for the last days of winter.
1 of 8Photo: Erica George Dines
An Elegant Garden Display
Shake off winter early with the brightness of flowering trees and shrubs; just clip budded branches and force them into bloom. (This rite of spring may be short-lived, but how glorious!)You need only one large bundle of pussy willow branches to create the elegant display in this photo.
2 of 8Photo: Erica George Dines
You have lots of choices for buds; any deciduous shrub or tree that flowers in early spring is a good candidate for forcing. Branches from quinces, forsythias, cherries, deciduous magnolias, redbuds, and pears can be coaxed into bloom. The process is simple and the cost is―well, if you have the plants in your garden, the cost is nothing.
Cut branches can also be ordered from most florists, but you should plant one or more of these exceptional trees and shrubs now. Think of them as a flower shop in your yard. For a big show of color, place a variety of branches in different jars and on a long table, as pictured.
Learn what shrubs or trees flower in early spring in your area. (Check with a local nursery if you’re not sure.) Wait until close to the date plants naturally flower for faster and more uniform blooming. Clip 12-inch or longer lengths of budded branches, and gather up a bucket, household bleach, garden twine, and cut-flower food.
5 of 8Photo: Erica George Dines
Make the Cut
Using sharp, clean pruners, give each branch a fresh cut at the base of the stem. An old way to encourage water flow was to smash the stem end with a hammer, but a better method is to make a vertical slit or two up into the end of each stem. This allows water to reach the swelling buds, ensuring big, happy flowers.
6 of 8Photo: Erica George Dines
Place fresh cut stems immediately into a bucket of warm water with 1 tablespoon of bacteria-banishing bleach and a packet of cut-flower food. Keep branches in a cool spot―50 to 60 degrees―out of direct sun, and mist frequently. When flowers just begin to emerge, you can bundle the branches make your display.
7 of 8Photo: Erica George Dines
Tie with Twine
Remove just-opening budded branches from bucket. Secure bundles of branches with garden twine.
8 of 8Photo: Erica George Dines
Create an Arrangement
Arrange the bundles in your best heavy-bottomed vase. Place the flowers, such as the Yoshino flowering cherry pictured, in full or indirect light. Add more cut-flower food and change the water every few days to help to increase the vase life of the branches.