Tips on forcing spring branches
To get weeks of enjoyment from your spring arrangement, here is some expert advice on forcing spring flowers from gardening columnist and owner of Brunswick Nurseries in Quispamsis, N.B., Duncan Kelbaugh:
- The only shrubs to consider for cutting to force into bloom in the late winter are those that normally bloom very early in the spring. Their flower buds are pretty well developed by late fall and only need a month or two of freezing dormancy before they are capable of blooming once brought into the warmth. Try pussy willow, moosewood and from the garden, forsythia and February daphne.
- When choosing your source plants, choose those that are growing under good conditions, with plenty of sunlight and fertile soil. Most flowering plants will produce larger, more numerous blooms when grown in full sunlight.
- It’s important to know which branches to cut. The flower buds are produced on wood that is in its second or later season, somewhat more inward on the body of the shrub. The twigs they grow on are shorter, somewhat thinner, and more branched than the outer shoots. Cut the most vigorous and healthy of those older branches, and you will be in for much more bloom. However, pussy willow is different in that the pussy willows are produced mainly on last year's wood. And he reminds that one-year old forsythia branches, the long and unbranched ones that grew last year, probably have no flower buds on them.
- Learn to recognize flower buds from vegetative ones. Flower buds are usually smaller than the vegetative ones, fatter, but less pointed. And by the time you’re out collecting, they may be signalling their upcoming show with bits of the future colour showing faintly between the buds.
- When harvesting, use sharp pruners, and collect cuttings about a foot or two long, depending on how you plan to use them. When you have them indoors, cut the bases again just under the surface of warm water. Put them in a vase of water with a bit of floral preservative in it, in indirect sunlight, and wait for nature's miracle to happen.
- Good luck and enjoy!
Jennifer Roos is a craft book author, freelance writer and photographer living in Quispamsis, New Brunswick.