Monday, February 8, 2016

Forcing Flowering Shrubs

Suddenly it seems we have turned the corner with winter! The Sun is appearing noticeably earlier than it did just a week ago and the weekend was delightful albeit a bit windy. The tiny buds on the first flowering trees and shrubs have begun a appear so bring some inside and force them to bloom, thus giving one a grateful breath of spring. They set their flower buds last fall and once the buds have been exposed to cold for several months the branches are well suited for the process. 

'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 of February 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 tepid 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. *Tepid is water which is neither warm or cool to the touch of your hand. With a sharp knife cut a slit at the bottom of each cut branch about an inch up to help them absorb water through their 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. Pick some today!

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