Real Life Magazine, Winter 1998
Although I’ve always found the term “forcing” somewhat harsh, I am thrilled to get blooms from spring’s plants during winter months. All that is required is a bit of coaxing through simple environmental manipulation.
To add a special touch to the holidays try some pre-packaged, pre-chilled bulbs that are readily available. Amaryllis, Crocus, Hyacinths and paper white Narcissus are easy to grow. Follow the provided instructions–its almost as simple as just adding water! Remember to start them several weeks early for Christmas color.
willow sprigs in vase
Illustration by Joyce Leach
February has got to be the cruelest month. Forced holiday bulbs have faded, the days don’t seem longer and spring feels so far away. Wouldn’t a cobalt blue vase filled with Forsythias bright yellow blossoms be a welcome sight?
Try coaxing the branches of spring flowering trees and shrubs into flower at this time of year; their cheeriness truly goes the extra mile!
The shrubs and trees most easily forced are those that flower earliest in the year. Most summer bloomers won’t work. Forsythia, pussy willows, or any of the early flowering ornamental apples cherries or plums are likely candidates but don’t be shy; experiment!
Choose branches with a wealth of buds. Wait until we have a couple warmer days where daytime temperatures are above freezing to cut the branches. If there is any evidence of swelling the time is ripe for cutting. Once again experiment.
Once cut, split the branches lengthwise at the base 2-3 inches and immerse them in luke warm water over night. Afterward, it’s important to keep the branches cool and moist until some bud color is evident. Wrap in moistened newspaper the next day and place in a vase of luke-warm water in a cool spot.
Once color is evident, remove the paper and keep the vase out of direct sun. Mist frequently with luke-warm water and before long the buds will burst forth into bloom. A cool location will prolong bloom time.