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Forsythia Fan

Source: Martha Stewart Living, March 2001


It gives the impatient gardener a lift, since March is a good time to prune a few branches from a bare shrub and "force" them into early bloom indoors. 

Woody stems are naturally sturdy, so you don't need a frog to anchor them. It's easiest, though, to add shorter branches first, and then thread taller ones among them. For a soft fan shape, put straight cuttings in the middle of the container and curved ones at the edges, where they can gracefully dip and rise.

How to Force into Early Bloom
When branches full of buds are cut, brought indoors, and watered well, they are fooled into thinking spring has arrived and thus burst into bloom ahead of schedule. Forsythia is a dependable bloomer, but this process -- known as forcing -- will work on almost any spring-flowering tree or shrub. 

The time a branch takes to bloom depends on how close it is to its naturally scheduled bud break. You may see flowers in a matter of days, or maybe not for several weeks. Prune with care; overzealous cutting can reduce the blossom display in your garden. 

Once temperatures are above freezing, use a sharp pair of pruning shears to cut young branches that have lots of plump flower buds (usually larger and rounder than leaf buds). Cut slits one to two inches long in bottoms of branches; some florists recommend smashing the bottoms with a hammer to increase the surface area exposed to water. Then place the branches in tepid water, and keep the container in a cool spot, such as an unheated sunporch or garage. Keep the water level high, and mist buds regularly so they don't dry out. Once the buds start to bloom, move the arrangement to a bright location out of direct sunlight.

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