The contrast between my garden in Southern California and Mary Beth’s garden just outside of Durango couldn’t be more different than it is right now. In Southern California we’ve had a week of warm weather and my garden thinks it’s spring. The daffodils are pushing up, there’s new growth on the roses, and I have small splashes of color from camellias, pansies, and a lovely pair of hardenbergia vines that frame the fountain in my atrium.
Mary Beth on the other hand is desperate for color. Some days it seems that the only color is in that blue, blue sky. Her garden is covered in snow with a few brown stems and seed heads braving the frigid air. But she’s not letting a little thing like freezing temperatures get in her way. She’s got an old trick up her sleeve — forcing tree and shrub blooms — a great way to start spring indoors.
There are a number of spring-flowering trees and shrubs that will bloom indoors including: apple tree, azalea, cherry tree, flowering quince, forsythia, pear and plum trees, pussy willow, rhododendron, serviceberry, and witch hazel. Forsythia and pussy willows are the first to try in mid-January. Others such as beautybush, crabapple, magnolia, redbud and spirea can’t be forced until late February to mid-March.
- Try to go out on a day where the temperature is above freezing. Look for branches that have many prominent flower buds (bigger and rounder than leaf buds) and cut as you would for pruning — at an angle near the base of the stem. Make the branches at least 12″ long.
- If the outside temp is above freezing you can bring the branches directly indoors. If it’s colder, you’ll need to transition them by putting them in an unheated garage, cool basement, or enclosed porch for a day or two before bringing them inside.
- Remove any buds or twigs that would be under water in your vase. Cut a little off the branch again, then split or smash the bottom 1″ of the stem and put it in cool water. You can add some floral preservative if you have any.
- Place in bright, indirect light and mist every so often. Change the water when it becomes cloudy.
You should have blossoms within 2 to 6 weeks. They’ll last for quite a while and make you feel like spring is just around the corner.