I may be dating myself but do you remember the Chiffon Margarine commercial in the 1970’s whose famous quote was “It’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature”? I’m sure you can find it on YouTube if you really want to see it but this fun project is kind of like fooling Mother Nature and the results are really oh so nice! If you want to chase away those winter blues then let’s coax some early blooms from your favorite flowering trees and shrubs.
The following shrubs and trees are good choices for this DIY project:
Shrubs: Forsythia, Mock Orange, Witch Hazel, Pussy Willow, Flowering Quince, Lilacs
Trees: Dogwood, Magnolia, Flowering Cherry, Flowering Crab Apple, Flowering Pear, Redbud
Materials You Will Need For This Project: Sharp Pruners, Scissors or a Utility Knife, Hammer, 2 Buckets, Vase or Other Container, Newspaper
Once you choose the tree or shrub you want to force into bloom you’ll want to follow these steps:
1. Do your pruning on a mild day (temperatures above freezing) in the late winter. The branches are easier to cut under these conditions. Fill one of the buckets with warm tap water and bring it with you when you harvest the branches.
2. Be strategic with which branches you cut. You don’t want to alter the shape of your plant. Look for branches that are no greater than ½ inch in diameter; about the thickness of a pencil and that have a significant number of buds that have formed on the branch. Cut the branch with the pruners on an angle, as opposed to straight across and take the cut branches and put them in the bucket of water.
3. Bring your bucket full of cut branches indoors and put it aside for the moment. Fill the second bucket with hot tap water that you are still able to put your hands in. Remove the cut branches from the first bucket and submerge them, cut side down, in the container with the hot tap water for several minutes. Then remove the branches and using the utility knife or scissors remove the leaves twigs and flower buds that will be submerged once you put the branch in your formal vase or container.
4. Remove the bark from the area on the branch where you made the original cut. You should remove about an inch or two of bark. Then take the hammer and hit the area where you removed the bark 3 or 4 times. This will help the branch absorb water.
5. Take these branches and wrap them in wet newspaper. Empty one of the buckets and place the newspaper wrapped branches in the bucket. Put the bucket in the garage for 2 to 3 days or until you see the buds on the branches start to swell. You can then place the branches in your vase or container and put them in a bright location but not in direct sunlight and away from heat sources like vents. The cooler the spot the longer the branches will bloom.
6. Change the water daily. How long it takes the branches to bloom will depend upon how close the shrub or tree is to actually blooming. If the tree or shrub is already close to blooming outdoors than it will bloom relatively quickly indoors.
Need more help? Check out our video on Forcing Branches.
Branches, a vase and water are all you really need to shake off winter’s chill and let spring begin. Please share pictures of your forced branches on our Facebook page!