Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Forcing Branches for Beautiful Winter Blooms!

The wintertime can be rather boring for those with a green thumb: no luscious blooms of vibrant color, no weeds to pull or plants to water, nothing to occupy our hands until the frosts ease up and Spring pops in for a welcome visit. Are you itching to pull out your shears yet? Many gardeners forget that we can “trick” plants to give up their flowers – as early as late January! If you want to fill your home with fragrant blossoms without paying flower shop prices, consider forcing a few branches from trees that bloom early! With the proper technique, you can coax the most beautiful floral display even in the dead of winter!

Selecting Branches

Trees and shrubs that bloom early in the springtime develop flowering buds in the previous autumn before dormancy. We will be forcing these types of samples into bloom. By mid-January, many types of early-blooming trees will have already received enough hours of cold temperature and are technically no longer dormant. This stage is often called “quiescence”, or a period of quiet. Select young, vigorous branches that have a large number of flower buds. These buds are often larger than regular leaf buds – but if you have trouble telling them apart, do not be afraid to split a few open and take a look inside. Choose branches that are over twelve inches long, and prune them flush with the trunk or main branch to avoid tree damage.

Forcing the Branches
Once branches have been pruned from the flowering tree or shrub they should be put into water immediately. If you have a large tub available, it may be better to totally submerge the selection in room-temperature water overnight. After the buds have softened, move the branches to bucket of water and frequently mist for the next few days.

Now it is time to recreate the conditions of springtime, which will bring these babies into full, spectacular bloom. Move your selected branches to a relatively cold location (around 60 degrees). Warmer temperatures will create a smaller quantity of flowers, but the blooms will develop rapidly with diminished size and color. Branches will need plenty of natural sunlight, but they should not be placed directly in the sun. Mist occasionally, and wait for the results!

Luscious Winter Blooms!

Once the buds are beginning to show a bit of color, remove them from the buckets, and arrange them in your choice of containers. Your beautiful bounty will unfold right before your very eyes! To make them last even longer, move the branches to cooler temperatures (around 40 degrees) overnight. Send them as gifts to surprise a friend with a fresh winter bloom, or place the flowering branches throughout the home to introduce an early touch of spring. Beware: your friends my begin begging you for the secret to fresh winter flowers!

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