Friday, July 20th, 2018

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Forcing spring, by cutting budding branches from your backyard


After enduring the brutal, bitter cold of this past winter, who isn’t ready for spring?! You can hasten its promise by forcing branches of your spring-blooming shrubbery and trees to flower indoors while you await their beauty in your yard.

“Any time in March is good to cut branches to force,” said Jeff Griff, third-generation owner of Lowe’s Greenhouse & Nursery in Bainbridge. It was founded in 1926 by Carlton Lowe, who after seeing tuberous begonias in Belgium during World War I, brought the plant here – it’s the Township’s official flower – and began to sell it through catalogue sales across the country. Jeff’s grandparents, Bud and Ernestine, bought the business from Mr. Lowe in the mid-1950s, and the Griff’s children and grandchildren continue their legacy.

“Never prune when the temperature is below freezing, whether you’re cutting branches to force or removing anything to correct the plant,” said Jeff. “You only need a few hours above freezing. The only caveat is if we have nice weather because warmer temperatures will cause flowering naturally.”

Forsythia is the most popular plant to force but the challenge, said Jeff, is that forsythia blooms on old wood. Take care in not cutting off too many branches, and then only to a reasonable length to put in whatever vase you are going to use. Pruning also will help invigorate the plant, promote its longevity, stimulate growth from its base and rejuvenate its spring blooming.

Lilacs, witch hazel, magnolia, pussy willow, blooming pear, flowering cherry, yellow flowering dogwood, crab apple and Harry Lauder’s walking stick (a European filbert cultivar) are all good choices for forcing. Jeff says to look for buds on branches about a half an inch thick. After cutting them, hammer the ends to bruise them to allow for maximum absorption of water. Put the branches in tepid water and with crab apples, which take longer to flower, you may have to change the water. By contrast, pussy willow could open in just a few hours. If branches of any plant don’t open, Jeff says to “hydrate them by immersing them – it’s called sweating – in the shower or bath tub. That will raise the humidity.” Avoid putting the arrangement of branches in really hot sun or near a heat source such as the fireplace so you can enjoy the flowers longer.

Consider planting flowering trees and shrubs in your yard to maximize your dollars spent on plants that will bring you pleasure year round. Jeff said, “The average gardener knows less and less so ask questions. Nearly 99 percent of people want easy care plants with multiple season interest.”

Springtime flowers

Springtime flowers

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