Steal a March on Spring

kerria-blooms on forced branches

Forcing branches for winter color and fragrance:

  1. Prune branches at least 12 inches long using clean, sharp pruners so as not to bruise the wood and leave the wound open to weakness and disease.  Imediately plunge the cut branches into a bucket of warm water and bring indoors.
  2. Completely immerse the cut branches in a large tub of water for 8-12 hours to encourage the plant to break dormancy.
  3. Place branches in a vase or bucket of water and put in a room with good light away from any heat source.  Mist occasionally to maintain a humid environment and watch for the buds to swell until they burst into a precocious spring bloom.

Suggested plants for forcing:  Apple, birch, buttercup winter hazel, cherry, dogwood, elderberry, forsythia, lilac, magnolia, maple, pear, quince, redbud, spirea, will, witch hazel.

…from Hortus Miscellaneous, a gardener’s hodgepodge of information and instruction, by Lorene Edwards Forkner & Linda Plato, Sasquatch Books, 2007

Hortus Miscellaneous was my first book.  I’ve often referred to it as the horticultural love-child of Ripley’s Believe it or Not and The Old Farmer’s Almanac.  It is filled chock o’block with tidbits, myths, how to’s, random lists, design tips, statistics and definitions; everything from a list of edible weeds,  “Chic Greens in your Backyard”, lists of plants mentioned in the writings of Shakespeare, as well Collette and the Bible, to directions for how to lay a flagstone pathway.  Like the title says – a hodgepodge!  Nonetheless, a useful, quirky and personal hodgepodge that I continue to refer to throughout the year.

soaking branches in bathtub

soaking branches in bathtub

buds beginning to swell

buds beginning to swell

About a month ago, I cut branches of Kerria japonica ‘Picta’ for forcing, turned to page 14 – you don’t think I have all this information memorized!!! – and took over the bathtub for a day.  Today, graceful, delicate green stems of Kerria adorn my dining room table in a huge bouquet that pokes and snags everyone who passes by too closely.  Sure the family would rather I conducted these little projects away from major traffic patterns in the house but I’m sure, secretly they too, like me, appreciate their brilliant goldenrod-colored blossoms and fresh green and white leaves!

fresh leaves on forced Kerria

fresh leaves on forced Kerria

The following is an excerpt of a sweet review of Hortus that recently appeared on Idaho Gardening Examiner:

A charming compendium of facts  for gardeners, with fascinating bits and pieces of information -some  little known, some whimsical,  all very useful – perfect as a small reference book on all things gardening.

Hortus lists the top 10 arboretums in America, offers instructions for installing a flagstone pathway, will help you brew the perfect cup of herbal tea, tell you how to fend off rabid dogs with plants, and provides a list of edible plants. Of course, those are just a few of the juicy tidbits you’ll find in a book that covers gardening from asexual propogation (A) to xeriscape gardening (X). (Note to author: Lorene, you should have added Zinnia just for the hell of it!)

In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that I KNOW Lorene Edwards Forkner, and can say without reservation, she knows whereof she speaks when proclaiming “a good martini should taste like rain.” You will find that quote on page 2,  regarding the Gardener’s Tipple: gin.

Personally, I am sticking with good ol’ pig wash, the Kir Royale. Look it up on page 143.

Hortus makes a terrific gift for anyone who loves to garden.

Thanks Mary Ann Newcomer, friend and fellow garden writer!  I have a lot of respect and genuine admiration for this clever and knowledgeable woman – even if she didn’t have good things to say about my stuff!  OK, enough with the mutual appreciation society…just go to MA’s blog, Idahogardener, and see for your self if she doesn’t get you thinking and smiling.

Now I’m going to go sweep up the fallen petals in the dining room, grab my pruners and head outside to cut some pear branches.  Anything to get through these final days of winter.


6 Responses to “Steal a March on Spring”

  1. MA March 5, 2009 at 4:23 pm #

    I’d kill for some branches to force! And would kiss you again and again for those kind words. I truly LOVE Hortus and bought several copies for gifts. It is snowing like crazy here. Making me crazy. Are you holding Spring hostage over there in Seattle?

  2. David March 5, 2009 at 5:00 pm #

    Great info, Lorene! I just linked this post to my latest post, cuz weirdly, wonderfully, we are on very similar pages today, each with our own pathway through the same hunger for bringing it indoors.

  3. admin March 5, 2009 at 6:17 pm #

    Friends are good, no? I think I’m rich in them.

    David, thanks for the link and I LOVE your beautiful photos of the dogwood blossoms. I would so like to leave a reply on your site, but being of the knuckle-dragging, unwashed, PC laptop crowd I can’t seem to access the comments page, I’ll try again later.

    In the meantime – now that readers have the how to from this post they should head over to A Photographer’s Garden Blog and witness David’s work along with his generous instructions and tips for How to bring spring along indoors.

  4. David March 6, 2009 at 12:58 am #

    ;>) Today we seem to be rather in sync, eh?

    Re: the comments issue on my blog. Invariably you will have arrived at the copy of my blog at as opposed to The .mac one won’t accept comments. The .me one will, gladly. go up into the url address for my blog in your browser. Backspace out the a and the c and replace with the e. Hit enter. Poof, you are now in exactly the same place on the server. Bookmark the new address. Throw out the old one. Leave comments to your heart’s content.

  5. Karen March 6, 2009 at 1:54 am #

    OK, I’m gonna have to invest in a copy of that book… sounds like a fun compendium from a great source (you!). I have never really tried forcing (and that bathtub pic is going to give me nightmares, I think I have actually had some about roots growing up out of the drain, eek!?!) but it’s great to know how to do it. Since my clippers are never very clean or sharp, I’m worried to damage my plants. Maybe someday! 🙂

  6. debra March 23, 2009 at 8:54 pm #

    okay, this makes me so very happy to see you all gabbin’ together. My work is complete!