Forcing Branches

Forcing Branches

Part of Ep. 203 Spring Planning

Bring spring into your home in the middle of winter by forcing branches into bloom.

Premiere date: Feb 28, 1994

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
It's hard to believe that these dead looking branches that we just pruned can be brought indoors to provide color. That's exactly what's going to happen. We're in Soldiers Grove in Southwest Wisconsin. And, I'm with John Zaer, who grows and sells fresh cut flowers. John, you said we were going to force these. What does that mean?

John:
Shelley, forcing deciduous branches into bloom simply means by cutting branches that normally bloom early in the spring and by cutting them during the winter and bringing them indoors and placing them in water in a warm environment, you will get them to bloom on you before they normally will outside.

Shelley:
So, is this something that I could do on a year-round basis?

John:
Well, no. Generally deciduous things require a certain period of cold treatment to induce the bud set of the flower and that's usually obtained anytime after the first of the year.

Shelley:
So, they need a good dose of winter in order to bloom.

John:
Yes.

Shelley:
OK, well what can we start out with that's easy?

John:
Well, Forsythia, what you have there right next to you, is one of the most common or easy--

Shelley:
These yellow flowers are gorgeous, too. This really glows. So, if this is easy, then I go out and just do my regular pruning and I bring these in and I'll get flowers?

John:
Well, basically that's what you have to do, although generally deciduous things bloom on second year old wood. So, you want to make sure you get second year old wood rather than first year wood. And, what you're holding there is first year old wood. Next to you I have second year old wood and you can see the difference here with the large buds and these are all flower buds where what you have there are just leaf buds.

Shelley:
And they look much more smooth and very bare. So, OK I cut these and bring them in. And then what do I do?

John:
Well, you'll place them in warm water with a floral preservative and generally they like to be a little bit acclimated into the warm temperature. So, if you could leave them in a cooler environment first, such as your basement or in a garage or something or entry where it's 55 or 65 degrees for a couple weeks and also what really helps them is if you could mist them once or twice a week with a little--

Shelley:
With a squirt bottle.

John:
Sure, and maybe place, like, a plastic bag around them to hold the humidity. And then anytime after the first two weeks, you can bring them into your living room and arrange with them or--

Shelley:
Oh, OK. Well, my basement is definitely cool, but I have no windows. Is light important?

John:
No, you don't-light is not required and once you bring them into your living, just a natural light from the environment will be just fine.

Shelley:
OK, well let's look at some of the other ones we've got here. This one has really beautiful glowing pink flowers. This is Quince and it's not as hard as some of the other things we've talked about. I don't normally think of this as a common one for forcing, but it works quite well.

John:
Yes, one thing that's more common to people is this is just a branch from a plum tree that I have in my yard. And, the plums are in the Prunus family and generally anything in the Prunus family works real well,such as cherries or apricots, any of your flowering plum trees or shrubs such as-

Shelley:
Like the flowering almond.

John:
Flowering almond works really well.

Shelley:
So, even with my fruit trees, though, I can go out and prune them and bring them in and they'll bloom.

John:
That's right and other than even blooming flowers, you can force things just for their leaves or this--What we have here is Tamarack or a larch. And that I'm just forcing it for its fine green needles and, or just use it with its interesting texture, bud texture there that it has.

Shelley:
Well, and either of those would be interesting this time of year.

John:
Yeah and along with other things, too. You can do this--here we have curly willow and that's just-- you can use just as itself. It doesn't require any forcing and has very nice texture and color. You can use it in an arrangement with other flowers if you want to add it with other things and along with that are things such as dogwood, red twig dogwood or yellow twig dogwood.

Shelley:
So, we don't need any flowers or buds and they look just great. Well, now this is one I recognize. Every time I see this, I do think spring. This is pussy willow.

Well, that's one of the most common things people force or have them. Generally around easter, that blooms just outside in itself and these are the blossoms you see on it right here called catkins. But there again, when you select something to force, you want to make sure that you get branches with the flower buds on them which you see here are the larger buds versus something you see on this branch are just leaf buds.

Shelley:
So, as you said, leaves are OK, but if we're looking for flowers, look for the more swollen buds on these.

John:
Right.

Shelley:
OK, great. Thanks, John. This is a sure-fire cure for cabin fever.

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