Monday, March 4, 2013

Forcing Flowering Shrubs



Sunday was glorious with exception of our typical Oklahoma winds. The mild temperature helped us forget the blizzard last week even though snow still remains in shade that has received no sunshine. Last Sunday, as surely as March arrived on schedule, spring was in the air!

As one wanders the garden, small tips of leaves may be seen on the flowering shrubs and trees. Spring-flowering trees and shrubs set their flower buds last fall and once the buds have been exposed to cold for several months branches may be cut and forced to bloom indoors. The process of ‘forcing’ simply means tricking the branch into believing it is Spring by exposing it to the warmth of your home. The buds usually take several weeks to open, but watching them each day will help stave off boredom as we wait for full blown Spring. The easiest branches to force include Flowering Quince, Forsythia, Honeysuckle, Crabapple, Currant, and Redbud.

If you choose branches that should be pruned such as those from over lapping or crowded spots, you not only will have performed a necessary task, but the cut branches will bring you pleasure as they begin to flower. Take a bucket of water with you to the garden to hold your stems, look for branches with the most flower buds, and cut them from ten to fifteen inches long. With a sharp knife cut a slit at the bottom of each cut branch about an inch up to help them absorb water through the woody stem. Remove any foliage that will be submerged in water as it may cause bacteria which will easily transfer to your branches and remember to change the water every day or so.

When they are brought to the house, place them in a small amount of warm water which will surprise them and begin the trickery of forcing blooms. Move them to a vase of cool water after several hours and place them in a chilly part of the house for several days to help them ‘settle in‘. (Finding a cool place in this old farmhouse is relatively easy.) Once they have relaxed a bit place them in a high traffic area where you can see them during the day… watching for more and more blooms is part of the fun. The new leaves will begin bursting forth and the tiny buds will swell then flower to provide a joyous Spring show while the garden is still sleeping.