One of the great things about New England is that the seasons change so remarkably. We are lucky here to be perpetually awaiting the next best thing. In spring we await the heat and blooms of summer, in summer we await the cool crisp nights of fall, in fall we giddily await the first snowfall, and in winter we await the opening of all the buds on the trees and shrubs we can see plumping before our very eyes.
But waiting is hard, we have now grown tired of dirty snow banks, gray February days and salt covered cars. We are ready for birdsong, green grass and the first daffodils. Good thing we know a trick or two to rush the season in!
Forcing branches is one of the easiest and most satisfying of late winter activities. All it takes is a quick trip around the yard with the clippers and soon enough the house can be filled with the colors and feeling of springtime. About 8 days ago I cut the first bunch( of what will be many) forsythia branches that will come indoors. I usually start earlier , but somehow I got distracted and forgot. But, no worries there as the buds are already breaking and showing lots of hints of the yellow explosion that will happen within the next day or two.
For the next few weeks I will head out every few days to cut more of them and lots of other things too that will keep this house in spring bloom until Mother Nature takes over outside.
Here is a list of what I will /or have already cut:
Hamemelis ‘Purple Ribbons’
Cherry branches Prunus spcs.
Birch and corylus for their catkins
Lonicera fragrantissima or Winter Honeysuckle mmmmmm
Red bud cercis canadensis
Red Maple acer rubrum
Spirea branches from those whose first leaves open in fiery color (‘Goldmound’, ‘Double Play’ and the like)
Two varieties of forsythia , one lemon yellow, one golden yellow
Spice bush lindera benzoin, which flowers much like forsythia
When cutting branches from shrubs and trees for forcing, the closer to their actual bloom time you bring them in, the more success you will have . Finegardening.com has a timetable that is pretty accurate, but if you just follow the normal succession of things you should be OK. Start with Hamemelis (witch hazel) and forsythia as they bloom first and are easy forcers.
For very thick branches or shrubs that resist forcing, instead of mashing the stems with a hammer which actually destroys the plants ability to siphon water up ,try instead using a vegetable peeler to expose some of the cambium and sapwood ( the layers under the bark) to help with absorption. It works !