If you cannot wait for spring to savor the sight of flowers in bloom, don’t despair. You can easily arrange a preview by cutting the branches of certain flowering trees and shrubs and bringing them indoors. “Forcing” is the method by which you “trick” plants into thinking it is spring by putting their branches in water and placing the container in a warm, sunny spot.
Buds will begin to unfold and, lo and behold, the plant will come into full flower! The unusually hardy Forsythia is very popular for forcing. Its yellow columns of blossoms add such bright, cheerful color at a time when grey seems to be the order of the day.
In order to begin forcing forsythia, use pruning or all-purpose gardening shears to cut as many branches as you wish to display. (The more you cut, the more it grows back.) Arrange forsythia branches in any shape jar or vase, either by themselves or add a brilliant stem of Anthurium from the florist for a sensational effect. (They are the unusual flower that resembles a broad red leaf.)
Forcing forsythia takes anywhere from four days to one week, depending on heat, sunlight and water conditions. Forced branches last up to two weeks. However, like any cut flowers, their life can be prolonged by keeping them in a relatively cool place. Another outdoor plant that responds to forcing is Horse Chestnut, a favorite in Europe. There are two lovely varieties – one with red blossoms and the other with white. This plant needs more time than Forsythia to bloom, but it lasts longer. Just be sure to change the water frequently. Otherwise, it tends to develop an unpleasant odor. If you have Witch Hazel on your property, try forcing it. Cut it sparingly since it doesn’t renew steadily. The flowers are so pretty, resembling narrow pieces of ribbon. (Yes, this is where witch hazel, that soothing liquid, comes from. It is made by soaking the root or bark of the plant.) As you enjoy your indoor floral preview, you will probably start noticing the colorful bulbs peeking out of the ground in the garden.
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