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  Mike's Gardening Tips

Forcing Bloom in Your Living Room

Are you sick of winter? I'm sick of winter! And you know that Groundhog business--it's a lie! Look at the calendar! There's ALWAYS six weeks of winter left after Groundhog Day--and so we've still got a good month to go at this point whether that lousy whistlepig sees his shadow or not!

Now--are we going to be held hostage by some arbitrary calendar date? NO! We're going to FORCE Spring to show up--by forcing the branches of some Spring blooming trees and shrubs to flower for us indoors. It's easy--you can pretty much force any plant that blooms early in Spring, because their buds are fully set and ready to go--all they need is a little bit of warmth. Kind of like men. Hey--it's either this or sulking through another 90 days of March! So sharpen up your pruners, kats and kittens--we are about to fill our otherwise grey-hued homes with indoor color--for free!

Now, the pretty yellow flowers of forsythia are the easiest to coax into appearing--and those huge shrubs tend to be so big and bushy, you'll never miss the cuttings! Now some of our forsythias already bloomed during that warm spell back at the beginning of winter, and those branches won't flower again this year--so be sure and select only branches that are covered with big fat flowerbuds. Take your cuttings from the center of the plant, and make them at least two feet long for the best effect. Remove the leaves from the very bottom, put them in a vase full of water and the flowers should open up in a week or so. Pussy willows are probably the second easiest; these puppies bloom super early; and, like forsythia, the big plants often have lots of branches to spare.

But if you have fruit trees---real ones or 'flowering ornamentals' like crabapples and "cherry blossom trees", you're in luck. There's nothing more beautiful than peach, cherry or apple blossoms as they go through the process of opening up to reveal the beautiful flowers inside. Now don't just go out there hacking away--this is a great time to prune away excessive growth on the inside of such trees to allow more light and air into the center. Pick thin, young, bud-covered branches that are crossing each other or crowding the center of the plant, and prune out cuttings two to three feet in length. Bring them inside, put them in water and they should bloom in a week or so.

OK, let's move on to the master class and get those branches to bloom even faster. As before, cut some branches from Spring-blooming plants--like forsythia, lilacs, pussywillows, and apple, peach and cherry trees. Pick branches with nice fat buds on them, prune off two to three foot lengths and bring them indoors.

Now, instead of just dropping them into water right away, wrap the branches in soaking wet towels overnight to get them nice and saturated. Then place them on concrete and gently bash the bottom of the stems with a hammer for maximum water uptake. Put the stems into a vase filled with lukewarm water and put it in a warm spot, out of direct light. When the flowers open a few days later, move the vase to a cool spot; the cooler the temps, the longer the flowers will last. Start a fresh run every week for continuous free indoor flowers!

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