Get a jump on the season by forcing branches to flower a little ahead of schedule.
Arranging Cut Branches
Container Recipe:Red flowering quince, Forsythia, and White flowering quince. Light: Partial, Water: Medium, Care: Medium
| Credit: Helen Norman

Chase away winter's chill by coaxing branches cut from your garden to bloom inside. Choose wayward branches for cutting and you'll be shaping your shrubs as you gather stems to arrange. (Note: Shrubs are easier to force than trees.) Naturally, the closer it is to their normal bloom time, the easier they'll be to force.

Cut branches 24 inches or longer for large containers, 12 inches or shorter for small ones. Select stems with buds that have begun to swell. Cut at an angle, and place stems in a bucket of water. Once indoors, recut stems at an angle. Make a slit at the end of each stem to increase water uptake. Condition the stems by filling your bucket with warm water. Add a floral preservative (or lemon-lime soda) and 1/2 teaspoon bleach. Place bucket in a cool room in indirect light. Mist often to keep buds moist and help them open. When you begin to see color in the buds, move them to a brighter room and arrange in glass containers.

No shrubs to cut from your yard? Visit your local florist for stems of quince, forsythia, and pussy willow, all available in late winter. They're easy to force into bloom, so you can enjoy a little spring color right now!