Almost all native flowering trees can be forced to bloom indoors, ahead of nature’s schedule. As soon as buds are visible—usually by early April here in New England—branches of flowering and fruit trees such as forsythia, willow, apple, cherry, pear, peaches and honey suckle may be cut to be placed in containers of water inside and “forced” to bloom long before mother nature intended.
Once you have noticed trees budding, begin by using sharp pruning shears and choosing an established tree with good growth. Taking cuttings of branches on areas that need pruning anyway is always advised. Cut branches at an angle just below a node. DO NOT cut a main branch that is thick and supporting many branch-offs. This is a potentially hazardous error that may adversely affect your tree and even kill it. Cuts should be sporadic around the tree, assuring that branches are snipped thoughtfully— causing the least amount of stress to the tree. Five to seven branches is enough for a stunning arrangement.
Once the branches have been harvested, place them in a sturdy vase or urn with lukewarm water covering no more than ¼ of stems at the bottom of the vase—just enough to keep the branches watered. Replenish the water as needed. Within a few days, blossoms will begin to open. The perfume from these blooming tree branches is nothing less than intoxicating—it will fill your home with the smells of spring in all its glory.
Blooms will keep indoors and add a lovely fragrance to your home for a few weeks before they start to wilt and need to be replaced. Willow branches may be kept in water to root and re-plant later. Although the blooms will be past peak, the stems will be alive and root shoots should begin to form within the next three weeks. After the danger of a frost has passed the newly rooted branches may be planted outside.
Longer tree branches grouped together and placed in large spaces such as an entryway or on a stand in front of a mirror will provide a stunning focal point. New-growth fruit tree branches are pliable and vary in shape and growth patterns—these curls and unusual contours add interest and are very visually appealing—especially when in full bloom.
Other ways to add a touch of spring with forced branches is to weave the blooming branches into twig wreaths—indoors or out. Place them in outside plant pots or in a basket on your front porch, or use as accent sprigs in bouquets and floral arrangements.