Bringing spring indoors in the middle of winter is not a difficult task. Some may do this by making a trip to the local florist or grocery store but this really is not necessary. All that is needed is to merely look out the window.
Plants in a typical landscape can be an inexpensive answer to the wintertime blues. Crabapple, flowering cherry, flowering almond, flowering pear, flowering quince, redbud, pussy willow, forsythia, and red maple are just a few of the trees and/or shrubs that are useful in this in devour or what is commonly known as forcing.
The Process of Forcing
Forcing begins by studying the plant material in ones own backyard. Choose plants that have branches that need to be pruned. This strategy will reduce the task of pruning later and will provide ample material to force. It is always better to cut more in length than is needed.
The process of cutting the branch is easy. Simply pick the branch, cut the length desired, and remove the branch at an angle using hand pruners. Once all material has been cut, bring indoors and recut all the stems under water. Cutting the stems under water will prevent air bubbles from forming and blocking the movement of water up the stem.
Submerge the branches in cool water and leave for a couple of hours. The best place to submerge the branches is in the bathtub but if that is not possible, a large container will do. Once the branches have soaked, remove them from the tub or container and place in a decorative vase. Place the vase in a cool room and out of direct sunlight. Then set back and wait for the buds to open.
Change the water in the vase every few days and add a half-teaspoon of chlorine bleach to every quart of water. This will prevent mold from growing in the water while one waits for the flowers of spring.
Another approach to welcoming spring into the home in the middle of winter is forcing bulbs.
Forcing bulbs translates into encouraging the bulbs to grow and bloom earlier than usual. Bulbs that are usually used for forcing include hyacinths, crocus, daffodils, and early tulips. There exist three different procedures that are used depending on what type of bulb is being forced.
Pebbles and Water
To force bulbs in this manner requires a clear, waterproof bowl, white stones that includes gravel, pebbles or decorative rocks, and bulbs of choice.
Before starting the project, place bulbs in a cool, dark place for four to six weeks.
Once the bulbs are ready to use, fill the clear bowl with the stones of choice. Push bulbs into the bed of rocks until they can stand on their own. Then add enough water to fill the bowl without touching the bottom of the bulbs. Place in a warm room and wait.
Watch the water level in the bowl and do not let the bowl go dry. The roots of the bulbs will grow toward the water so there is no need to submerge the ends of the bulbs in the water.
This type of forcing is normally used only for hyacinths. Place hyacinth bulbs in a cool, dark place for four to five weeks. Once the cooling period has passed, either acquire a hyacinth glass or drinking glass. A hyacinth glass is a glass that has a figure similar to Mae West.
To use a hyacinth glass, simply fill the glass with water until bottom of the tapered neck is reached. Then place the hyacinth bulb into the tapered neck making sure that the bulb is 1/8 inch above the water. Move the hyacinth bulb and glass to a warm room and wait for the bulb to bloom.
If using a drinking glass, take the hyacinth bulb and insert a toothpick on all four sides. Place the hyacinth bulb with the toothpicks on top of the glass with the toothpicks setting on the rim. Once the bulb is stable, fill the glass with water until it reaches the bulb within 1/8 inch.
Forcing Bulbs in Soil
This approach takes some extra time to prepare but it is worth it. Take a clay or plastic pot and put drainage material in the bottom. Fill the pot 2/3 full of commercial potting mix and place bulbs on top of the soil. Cover the bulbs with the commercial potting mix until the soil level reaches ½ inch from the top of the pot.
Once pot is planted, dig a hole in the ground deep enough to hold the pot. Bury the pot with two to four inches of soil. Leave the buried pot in the ground for two months.
When the two-month period has passed, bring pot indoors and water. Place in a room that is kept between 50 to 60F degrees. Once flower stalks form, move the pot to a warmer room and enjoy.
Bringing spring indoors during the gloomy months of winter is not a difficult task. It takes time, a little planning, and effort but it is an inexpensive way of chasing away the winter blues.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mindy McIntosh-Shetter has been an Agricultural Science educator, and is a horticulture and/or environmental blogger who earned a degree from Purdue University in Agriculture Education with a minor in biology, and natural resources. Presently she is finishing up her Masters in Environmental Education and Urban Planning for the University of Louisville while working on her own agriculture/environmental blog.