We are in the season of 'in between'. We are 'in between' winter and spring, and the weather is sometimes nice and sometimes not. For a little taste of spring a little earlier than nature intends, try bringing in some flowering branches and 'forcing' them to bloom.
Every tiny taste of warmer weather makes me crave the sight of bulbs bursting through the earth and buds blooming on the trees.
I simply can’t wait to smell the apple blossoms. So… I’m not going to wait. I am going to force Spring to come into my home; I am going to force some flowering branches.
When it comes to forcing blooms, the closer to a tree or shrub’s natural bloom time, the better your chances of success. Branches need a proper cold period before they can “set” a bud, which is why early Spring is a perfect time of year here in Niagara to do your snipping.
Choose branches that are about 6 weeks before their natural bloom time; that way, you won’t have to wait too long for your reward.
Around the third week in March I went on a foraging expedition in the woods (sounds much better than ditch diving!). Armed with my sharp pruners, rubber boots and an old canvas shopping bag, I was ready to embrace Mother Nature.
Tips to remember when cutting branches:
- Keep in mind the shape of the shrub; hacking off one side of the bush is not going leave it looking very pretty so cut random branches.
- Choose medium sized branches that are just beginning to show buds
- Make cuts on the diagonal; this will help the shrub to “heal” and will give your branch a bigger surface area with which to drink up water.
I filled my bag with all sorts of goodies; forsythia, pussy willow, magnolia and weeping willow branches. I choose some varieties for their colour (forsythia), some for their luscious green leaves (weeping willow) and some just to experiment (magnolia). I also have some unidentified buds, which are greening up quite nicely.
Upon returning home, I cleaned off the lower branches and any old leaves (the less debris in the water, the lower the chances of bacteria growing).
I kept my branches long, and since I don’t want them to topple over, I chose a deep and heavy vase and filled it about 3/4 full with warm water.
If you choose a shrub with a woody stem, give it a little smash with a hammer to encourage the branch to suck up water. I’m going to change the water every few days, again to lower the chances of bacteria growing and to keep my branches looking fresh as long as possible.
Here are a few early spring bloomers worth trying:
- pussy willow
- weeping willow
- flowering dogwood
- apple trees
- flowering quince (shown above)