Q. I would like to use some of the flowering shrubs on my property and cut branches to force indoors for late-winter color. What is the best way to do this?
A. Branches from most flowering trees or shrubs can be successfully forced after six weeks of cold winter weather. Choose branches with interesting shapes, curves and textures as well as those with plump flower buds. Even branches with foliage only can make interesting arrangements. Use sterile, sharp pruners, and without interfering with the natural shape of the tree, selectively prune 1-foot-long bud-laden branches. Make cross cuts in stem ends or smash the ends of very large branches so they can quickly take up water. Place the branches overnight in a bathtub filled with room-temperature water to soften the wood and bud sheaths.
After arranging the stems, keep the vase in a cool, 60-degree room out of direct sunlight and provide fresh water every other day. Good choices for forcing include: apple or crab apple (Malus), flowering cherry (Prunus), flowering pear (Pyrus), flowering quince (Chaenomeles), forsythia (Forsythia), honeysuckle (Lonicera), magnolia (Magnolia), redbud (Cercis), serviceberry (Amelanchier) and spring-flowering witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis).