Tuesday, February 9, 2016

How To // Force Spring Branches

Forcing Branches / Fragrant Flowering Plants
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The Boston area woke up  to another 6-12" of snow today (that's after 8" on Friday) and my littles, both suffering from nasty head colds, have been home for the past four days with no end in sight. Wheeeeee! (insert insane cackle followed by sobs here). In order to save my sanity, I spent the morning choosing which containers I'm going to use to use to force branches in the coming weeks because one thing I learned during the horror that was last winter was that little things like blooming flowers can keep you from wanting to commit murder.

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"Forcing" was really popular where I grew up (rural Pennsylvania) but I feel like it's not as popular up here ... or perhaps our generation has just forgotten about it or doesn't understand how easy it is to do successfully. It's a really painless process and definitely worth doing for the weeks of low-cost eye candy it provides.

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If you want to give it a try this year, here's how to bring some color into your world:

1.) Choose Your Branches - There are tons of options (my favorites are quince, pussy willow, forsythia and cherry blossoms) that are readily available in backyards across the country. If you've got any of these on your property and you've had several weeks of cold weather, head out and clip some branches using pruning shears. If you don't have a yard, check out your local grocery (Trader Joe's is a great option) or florist. Regardless of where you find them, make sure that the branches you choose have lots of buds and are at least 12 inches long (I personally like a mix of 18-24 inch branches) and be sure to get enough (about 6-12 branches of forsythia or pussy willow, 1-3 of cherry or quince).

2.) Trim Your Branches - Head over to your sink and, using very sharp scissors, trim the ends of each branch making sure to remove any small twigs or buds located along the bottom sink 6 inches of each branch. Then create several 1/2 inch slits the end of each branch.

3.) Mash Your Branches - Using a wooden mallet or even the back end of a knife, lightly mash the sides of the base; this will help the branches soak up more water. If you've cut your own blooms and it's below freezing, be sure to immerse your branches' full length in cool water for a couple of hours (I generally use our bath tub or a garden tub like this).

4.) Make Your Flower Preservative - In a bowl, mix together:
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar 
  • 1/2 teaspoon household chlorine bleach 
  • 1 quart water
 5.)  Prep Your Branches For Blooming - Place all the branches in a container (I like to use a tall water pitcher with a rock at the bottom to keep it from tipping over). Add warm water (110°F)  to cover the bottom 2 1/2: - 3 inches of the stems (but no higher), then fill the container to 6 inches with preservative after 20-30 minutes. Then place your branches in dark place (closets & basements work perfectly) and keep them watered until they start to bloom (usually about 1-2 weeks although length depends on the type of plant).

6.) Enjoy! - Once the branches have bloomed, you can arrange them in your vase of choice and locate them wherever you'd like in your home.

PS -- If all of this seems too daunting (and it shouldn't because if I can do it, anyone can do it!) then you can always go the faux route....


  1. What a great post! Thanks for the very detailed instructions!

  2. So glad you like it; thanks for visiting!