It’s easy to cut a few branches from your flowering trees and shrubs at this time of year and to bring them indoors for forcing. They’ve already had the requisite six weeks of freezing temperatures and are raring to go. Here are some of my favorites:
Apple or Crabapple
Spiraea (especially Bridal Veil)
I cut the branches outdoors on a warm, dry day (at least a little above freezing) and bring them into my 50 degree basement. An unheated garage attached to the house will work well, too. I always follow good pruning practices in this endeavor, pruning at the trunk or base of the stem. Things can always be shortened later.
Indoors, I recut the woody stems with a knife so they can take up the maximum amount of water. I fill a metal urn with warm water and insert the branches. I suggest keeping separate containers for each type of plant, as each one will flower at different times.
My reference book, Forcing, etc by Katherine Whiteside, also suggests submerging cut stems immediately into tepid water for a two-hour soak in the bathtub. This will moisten and loosen the bud scales. Then set them into their vases of warm water in the basement for an additional period of waking up. I’d suggest this for a plant that is still tightly budded and not quite “ready to go,” such as Magnolia or Lilac, that bloom later in the spring.
Over the next several weeks, I check on the branches and top off the water as needed. The warmth indoors will gradually induce flowering. When I see this starting, I re-cut the stems to fit a vase for the house.