Saturday, January 16, 2010

...time to force a little spring !

It’s time to Force a Little Spring!
Here are some of my tips on forcing branches:

It’s that time of year again!

You know, I have been cutting branches and forcing them into bloom now for 40 odd years – and it still strikes me as magical!

It’s a stretch to believe that what seems like dead sticks in the middle of winter, will actually sprout not only lovely tender green leaves, but actually flower! This is a really fun activity to do with young children, who indeed must think it is magic!

You will need to choose a day when the temperature is going up at least 5 degrees – better if it is 10. It can be very, very cold – well below zero – it just has to be going up. Also it is best to do this on a sunny day – because what we are actually doing is tricking the plant into thinking that Spring has arrived.

Cut the branches longer than you intend them to be in your arrangement. This is because you will need to give them another clean cut (about 3 inches) when you bring them back into the house and place them into a vase. The stem will have already formed a scab at the cut as a natural protection to lock in whatever moisture or nutrition it has to sustain itself (pretty clever of Mother Nature I’d say).

Now give some scientific thought to this – if we continue to trick the branches into thinking it is Spring – what happens in Spring? It gets sunny, warmer, the frost comes out of the soil and the water can begin to get to the roots and ergo, the branches once again.

So – having said all of that – we need to get water up those stems – fast - and there are two recommended ways to do that. One is to hammer the ends of the stems to soften the wood. My preferred method is to give the branch a cut vertically up the stem, sort of splitting it in half, exposing the inner stem to the water.

Place the branches in cool to tepid water – NOT hot – afterall in spring the plant would be getting very cold water in fact – so we do not want to shock the poor thing. Similarly place the vase near sunshine – but not in the direct south-west sunny window – you will fry it!

Wait anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, changing the water weekly to avoid bacteria in the water – and amazing! Blossoms!!!

The two that bloom the quickest are Forsythia and Magnolia – my theory is because they are also the first to bloom in the spring. I have tried just about every shrub and flowering tree over the years and I find that you can force just about anything that blooms in the garden before mid-to late May (zone 6 ish). I have had some luck once or twice with Lilacs, but really it seems to be all in the way you hold your mouth frankly – absolutely no rhyme or reason to it. So why not - just try it !

Here are the ones I have found to be most successful:

Forsythia, Magnolia, Quince, Deutzia, Purple Sandcherry, Bradford Pear, Mock Orange , Schubert Cherry, Dogwood, Apple, Peach, Plum, Cherry, Sweet Almond, Azalea