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Forcing Flowering Branches with Phil

Martha Stewart Living Television

Forcing shrubs and trees into an early bloom is a simple matter of fooling the cuttings into believing that spring has already arrived; once you've chosen a branch suitable for forcing, only a few basic steps are required. Phil Mueller, of Star Valley Flowers in Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin, shares these tips for producing gorgeous spring blooms ahead of schedule.

Any woody, deciduous shrub or tree that flowers in the early spring is a good candidate for forcing; forsythia, dogwood, pussy willow, magnolia, flowering quince, cherry, and witch hazel are natural choices. Phil suggests waiting until after the flower buds swell in late winter to begin the process, noting that the closer you wait until the date plants naturally flower, the faster and more uniform the bloom will be.

Using a sharp, clean bypass pruner or a very sharp knife, cut each stem above an outward-facing bud. Recut the stems at a 45-degree angle, and place the branches in several inches of tepid water mixed with a floral preservative in a clean and sterile vase or container. To re-create conditions similar to early spring -- a good deal of moisture and a cool temperature -- keep the branches in a cool (50 to 60 degrees) spot out of direct sun, and mist them frequently. To speed the process, invert a plastic garbage bag over the tops of the branches (lifting it often to mist them); remove the bag once the buds begin to flower.