Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Branching Out: How to Force Spring Blooms.

Spring is near...only 21 more days. Hooray! Still, we all know that patience isn't my forté. So, I decided to force spring's early apearance. Literally.

Nothing heralds spring's arrival like sweet apple blossoms and forsythia dripping with cheerful blooms. Although our apple trees are too young, several large forsythia bushes reside in the gardens—bushes large enough to snip a few dormant branches without harming their spring show. And those branches now happily rest in a vase on the mantle, while I check their progress each day, watching as their tiny buds begin to open.

Forcing flowering branches is a perfect way to quell your spring fever. I've meant to try it for several years, but this is the first time I've followed through.

I highly recommend it.

Any flowering shrub or fruit tree is a good candidate for forcing. Popular among florists include apple, pear, cherry, quince, pussy willow, witchhazel and, of course, forsythia. Most of the fruit trees bloom in shades of white or pink, accompanied by a light, sweet fragrance. Forsythia produces cheerful yellow, star-shaped blooms.

To bring a bit of spring into your home, look for branches in the bud stage, making certain that the flower buds show good size and color. (Flower buds are generally larger than leaf buds. If you're uncertain, just open the bud to check.) Clip branches on a mild day in February or March, depending on your zone, to ensure that the bush experienced an adequate cold period for flowering. Most flowering trees and shrubs need at least eight weeks of cold (40 degrees F or under). Clip branches so they are at least 12 inches long or longer, if you have a tall vase, and approximately 1/2-inch thick. The thicker branches retain stored sugars to support the buds. Immerse cut ends immediately in water.

To prepare your branches for arrangement, strip buds and bark from the bottom portion of the branches that will be submerged in the vase to avoid contaminating the water and enhancing the vase life. Split the bottom of the stem four to five inches to improve water absorption. Fill the vase with tepid water, and arrange the branches. Place the vase in low light. As the buds begin to show signs of blooming, move the vase to a brighter area to encourage the buds to open. Change the water, and be patient. (I know, not easy!)

Also, misting the buds with water can be beneficial to prevent them from drying out in low humidity.

Branches may take anywhere from a week to two months to bloom, depending on how close you harvest to their natural bloom cycle, as well as the types of branches harvested. Fruit trees tend to take the longest. Once your branches fully bloom, move the arrangement to an area out of direct light to lengthen vase life.

After only a few days, I've seen a few forsythia blooms opening, but I'm anxiously awaiting the onslaught of spring cheer.

Patience, I know.

While I wait, though, I think I need to snip a few branches from Kristen's birthday tree. She won't notice...right?! And maybe I'll put the cherry blossoms in her room.


Only 21 days, friends...we can make it. Right?




  1. I want Spring now, too!! And very informative post, Julie :)

  2. I have been watching a forsythia in my garden --waiting for the blooms to open so I can get a picture for my friend on FB. Seems like it is taking forever!
    I know of a blogger who forced some Japanese Maple branch cuttings.

  3. Meredith/GreenCircleGroveFebruary 26, 2013 at 9:43 PM

    Thanks for this! I have forsythia branches in water right now--they're just beginning to show some green, and I was wondering if I should change the water or move them into more light. Yes and yes! Just what I needed.

  4. That is beautiful! We have a red barn and I've often thought the yellow forsythia would be pretty planted close by.

  5. Lucky me as my forsythia is about half bloomed now! A bit early so am sure we are headed for another early spring such as last year. A welcome site to me as I love spring!