Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Force Flowering Branches to Bring Spring Indoors EARLY

Easy to force Forsythia! 
Got the winter blahs, a.k.a. Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD? 

Crabapple LandscapExperts recommend causing Spring to arrive ahead of schedule by forcing flowering branches of woody ornamentals indoors. Any deciduous shrub or tree that flowers in early spring is a good candidate for forcing, although shrubs typically flower a bit more easily. Try the ubiquitous Forsythia, Spirea, Viburnum, Quince, Pussy Willow, Japanese Rose (Kerria), Flowering Cherry, Plum or Flowering Almond, Apple, Crabapple or Pear, Magnolia branches or  Redbud.

Crabapple Blossoms on forced branch 
After about eight weeks of temperatures in the 40s, most woodies are ready to force. In addition to watching the calendar (late winter), swelling buds on garden plants are another good indicator.  Keep in mind, the closer to the normal flowering date, the more readily the flowering branches can be forced.

Forced Quince Blossoms
Choose a day in February when temperatures have been above freezing. Before going out, first disinfect a deep bucket with detergent or a bleach solution, rinsing thoroughly. Then fill with warm (not hot, not cold) water and add a cut flower preservative. 

Commercial “cut flower food” provides both elaborated sugars that are normally supplied through photosynthesis and a disinfectant to reduce the growth of bacteria that can clog the vascular (water conducting) tissues.  Rosie Lerner and Michael Dana of the Perdue Department of Horticulture offer three recipes for make-your-own preservative solutions that will prolong the life of the flowering branches in Forcing Branches for Winter Color .

Native Redbud
Use sharpened bypass pruners or a sharp knife to harvest branches on your target plants.  Flower buds are generally rounder and larger than leaf buds, so choose branches with lots of potential flowers. Keep an eye on the overall shape of the shrub or tree as you cut, and cut a few extra branches because some may not absorb water, and also they are great to share with HOA friends or take to the clubhouse. 

Quickly get those branches into water. Re-cut each stem on an angle to increase the surface area and ensure that it won’t sit flat on the bottom of the bucket. Split or score the bottom inch or two of each stem to expose the conductive tissues (cambium layer) and encourage maximum water uptake, then plunge them into the waiting vase. Trim off any buds or twigs that will be submerged under water so they won’t rot.

Finished arrangement
To keep high humidity, cover the branches with a voluminous plastic bag (recycled dry cleaner bags are great for this) and place in a cool room (50-60 degrees F.) out of sunlight. Check them frequently to see how they are coming along and to refresh the water.  It will take anywhere from one to nearly four weeks for the buds to swell noticeably.

When in bloom, arrange them in a decorative vase and bring them into warmer temperatures to enjoy in the home.

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