Forcing Indoors

Last week, at the end of February, early spring bulbs such as crocuses and snowdrops, were coming up in New York gardens. One of the earliest blooming trees is witch hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia), whose spindly petals, vibrantly hued in yellow to orange, make a striking contrast to any Winter/Spring landscape. In New York it is usually in bloom by late January or early February, but can bloom in December in mild temperate zones.

Witch Hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia 'pallida') in early February.

Witch Hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia 'pallida') in early February.

Yet to someone craving the sight of tree branches laden with the effusive blossoms of Spring, the April bloom time can seem like a long way off. Forcing indoors is a wonderful method of achieving the beauty of Spring months in advance. And it couldn't be easier to do.

Choose any tree or shrub that flowers between March and May. Once buds are plump (this will happen in late January through February for early blooming trees such as cherry, and late February to early March for mid to late spring blooming trees such as dogwood and magnolia), cut some small branches that will not ruin the overall shape of the tree. Arrange the cuttings in vases indoors, where temperatures should be steady at 60°F (15°C) or higher.

Cherry and forsythia buds, after about 5 days indoors.

On February 17th I brought in forsythia, a few cherry varieties, peach, Italian plum, and apple. By February 24th the forsythia had opened and the cherries opened two days later. If you bring in enough varieties, you can have a changing floral display, lasting several weeks.

Viewing the flowering process indoors allows one to admire the buds at every stage as they quietly unfurl, coaxed into bloom by an interior warmth.


proustian said...

I find your photographs and compositions of
flowers and decorative objects so sublimely
evocative and the essence of Spring. I always
look forward to your next topic with anticipation and am rewarded every time with beautiful images
and ideas that inspire.Thank you.

the five o'clock teaspoon said...

Thank you, proustian. FYI-I am looking into garden dining throughout history (you had mentioned an interest in this before) and will be posting more on the subject in the near future.

Wandering Chopsticks said...

So that's what witch hazel looks like. I only know of it in terms of facial astringent. :P

The Lunar New Year came way too early for me this year. I'm used to seeing it in February. And forcing plum blossoms was something my father would do so we'd have blooms for the celebration.

the five o'clock teaspoon said...

Wandering Chopsticks--
That's a lovely way to have the opening of the blossoms culminate with a celebration. And since flowering plum is one of the "three friends of winter," that makes it a perfect flower for Lunar New Year decorating. :)