If you are ready for spring, but the climate around you is stubbornly holding onto winter, here is something you can do to brighten up your home. Branches of your favorite flowering trees, shrubs or fruit trees can be cut and gently persuaded to bloom prematurely indoors. This process is very easy to do, once you understand a few important details, and is much easier on the pocketbook than a trip to the florist to relieve the winter doldrums.

The forcing process can take anywhere from one to four weeks, depending on how far along you are in the season. When choosing the branches to use indoors, look for the fat flower buds and always cut the shrub with an eye towards improving the symmetry of your plant. Always cut your branches in the middle of a mild day when the daytime temperature is above freezing. Branches should be at least 12 inches in length. Using diagonal cuts, cut your branches flush to a main stem and immediately bring them indoors. Hammer or cut a 1-2 inch split in the bottom stem to allow it to accept water. Submerging in a bathtub of room temperature water for 24 hours is ideal. If this is not possible, simply plunge them in the deepest bucket that you have and mist them thoroughly several times during the first 24 hours. Soaking serves multiple purposes; it helps to clean off the bark, softens up the bud scales and hastens the bloom.

After the initial soaking, stand the branches in water, in a place between 55 degrees and 65 degrees, in bright but indirect light. Be sure to change the water and mist them daily. When the buds begin to swell and show color, arrange the branches in a vase and display in a bright, but not sunny location. Direct sunlight will dry out and shorten the life of the blooms. Flowers will last longer if they are moved at night only to an area with a 40-60 degree temperature.

Voila! Enjoy your beautiful spring flowers on even the coldest winter day.

Vicki Payne