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Over the Fence

Where gardeners come to find out what's happening out in the yard.

Forcing Flowering Branches

Posted by Richard Hentschel -



A great many of our ornamental flowering trees and shrubs have the 2012 bloom ready to go right now. If you are already outside doing your early spring pruning on your apple trees, bringing some of those branches that have flower buds will get you two bloom shows too. Typically our ornamental landscape plants produce the next seasons blooms starting not too long after they have completed flowering, those landscape plants are already hard at work producing the next seasons' spring flower buds. This spring the landscape plants are really coming out of winter dormancy very quickly.

Outside in your yard as our temperatures continue to moderate, the flower bud scales protecting the flower blooms slowly begin to soften and loosen. About this same time, sap flow begins to move upwards into the flowering tree or shrub from the root system. If gardeners continue to observe the buds on their favorite landscape tree or shrub, they will begin to see the buds swell in size. This is yet another indicator that spring is coming in 2012 way ahead of 2011.

As a gardener in the family takes to the yard to do that early spring pruning, those branch clippings could be brought indoors and if there are flower buds there could be forced for your enjoyment inside and will last for a few days to a few weeks. After that our earliest bloomers will be starting outdoors in the yard where the bloom show really gets going.

The best tactic is to remember that in nature the bud scales protecting the flower bud naturally soften from the spring rains allowing the flower bud to emerge as easily and quickly as possible. Gardeners can wrap the branches in moist materials that are readily available like old rags, paper toweling, just about anything that will keep the bud scales moist and softening. This should be done on the cooler side of temperatures, just like outdoors. You will have to experiment some to figure out how long you moisten those buds, usually a few days is enough. Once those flower bud scales soften and you bring those branches into the home, then warmer temperatures will allow the flower buds to expand and the bud scales will begin to slough off.

Gardeners can start the forcing process over and over again, providing a succession of bloom, using new clippings each time. Gardeners can experiment with more than one kind of flowering shrub or tree at the same time or keep them separate for a larger more impactful display. Ornamentals like Forsythia and Amelanchier will take about a week to force, Redbuds, Privet and Pussy Willow two weeks. Honeysuckle, Flowering Almond and Slender Deutzia will take about three weeks to force. Lilac, Spireas and Crabapples will take about four weeks.

Once the blooms fade or you have more coming that look a lot fresher, those branches and twigs can be added to the compost pile.

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