Weekend Gardening Project: Forcing Forsythia to Do Your Will

February Gardening:

TOOLS: Gloves, pruners/scissors, hammer, cutting board, paper towels, water and vase

I always laugh when I hear the term "forcing forsythia" or in reference to another plant. I'm a creative and visual person so when I hear this term I picture forsythia being forced into a car at gunpoint or something of that nature (yes, I'm only 58% normal brain functioning capacity as I am reminded daily). And while there is one camp that adores forsythia and another that hates it, there is a way to force forsythia in such a way that all will love it.

In case you don't know, forsythia is that arching plant in your yard that is budding right now and will have yellow flowers on it in the next week or so. Forsythia is a key to understaning when to take on other projects in the garden, too, which we'll get into further down. Forcing forsythia refers to removing branches of the forsythia and growing them indoors for a beautiful stand alone arrangement, or mixing them with other flowers for your enjoyment.

Forcing forsythia is really easy, too and needs to be done soon. Here's how:

Just cut a few branches from your forsythia (or other favorite spring blooming shrubs like Quince) on a day when the temperature is above freezing. Make sure you cut each branch all the way to the main stem. Later on you can cut the branches to the size you need them for your vase or arrangement. Bring the freshly cut branches inside and immediately put them in water.

Take each branch out of the water and cut the end off again. The forsythia branch will not drink enough water if not given a fresh cut. Now, pound the cut end of the branch with your hammer to split the end. Trust me, it will love it as now the branch has a better means to drink water. Just like in humans a scab will start to form over your cut so immediately place the end into a vase. In forcing flowers, we do not want the scab to form. Repeat this with each branch.

Keeping your branches "moist" is important for several days since indoor winter air is usually very dry. You can accomplish this by wrapping the branches in damp paper towels while they are still in the vase and misting them for several days.

In about two weeks you will begin to see the buds about to burst on the branches. Before long the shrubs branches will be blooming and there will be beautiful spring color in your home.

Make sure you change the water in the vase every few days for lasting color. The forced branches should last several weeks inside for your enjoyment.
Try this technique with other early spring and spring blooming plants. Don't be afraid to experiment.

Forsythia Facts:
Forsythis is an "indicator plant". The bellowy blooms tell you that the soil is above 45 degrees and the roots are active. The blooms also tell you it's time to prune your roses, fertilize some grasses, trees and shrubs (careful, not spring blooming ones).

The standard "goldenbells" variety can grow 8 to 10' in height and width so crowding them in a small area is not recommended. For smaller areas or yards, try the Fiesta variety which only grows 3' in height and width.

After bloom ends in spring, prune tattered shoots to ground level; you can remove up to a third of the plant's wood each year.

Forsythia looks best when the branches are long and arched.

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