Forcing Flowering Branches

Forsythia

Forsythia

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Forsythia

Forcing Flowering Branches

Winter. It’s been cold and dry, and today it’s cold and rainy. But a week ago I cut some branches from the forsythia across the street (from a warehouse site) to force into blooming. And today I have spring blooms in the living room. According to About.com,  azalea, beautybush, crab apple, flowering quince, forsythia, magnolia, pussy willow, redbud, rhododendron (I wouldn’t try this one), serviceberry, spirea, witch hazel, lilac, honeysuckle and fruit trees such as cherries, pears and apples are forceable. My lilac is probably about due for a prune, so maybe I’ll try forcing lilac next.

The forsythia and pussy willow are the easiest to force. Simple cut the branches, making sure each has an abundance of flower buds.

Not an abundance of buds

Not an abundance of buds

An abundance of buds.

An abundance of buds.

Forcing Flowering Branches:

These are still living cells, and still need water to continue to grow. So give your budding branches as much water as possible by slicing upward through the lowest 1″ of the stem. You could crush the stem with a hammer or some other blunt instrument, but I find the cut is simpler and just as effective.

Some of the above flowering branches will need a period of acclimatization before they’ll perform for you, so a cool dim spot for a few days is recommended. Having only tried to force Forsythia,which doesn’t need any special treatment, I don’t know which of the list above need the transition period. I’ll let you know about Lilac after I’ve tried.

Pretty soon you’ll have spring flowers long before you’re seeing them outside. Enjoy your early spring!

Garden Thugs: Daphne laureola

Daphne Laureola

A couple years ago I was walking over to a friend’s house when I was arrested by the fragrance coming from a lovely compact shrub along the sidewalk. It took me a while to discover that it was Daphne laureola (Spurge Laurel)–which didn’t surprise me, because my experience with Daphne so far is that they are delightfully fragrant! I have a Daphne odora ‘Marginata’, and my neighbour has (I think) Daphne x tansatlantica ‘Summer Ice’.

Shiny, evergreen D. laureola amidst winter blooming Heather.  You can just see flower buds starting under the top-most layer of leaves.

Shiny, evergreen D. laureola amidst winter blooming Heather. You can just see flower buds starting under the top-most layer of leaves. Click on picture to enlarge.

The unfortunate thing about all Daphnes is that all parts of them are toxic to humans when ingested, and sap can cause reactions on the skin. Now, that’s bad enough with the hybrid versions of Daphne, but with Daphne laureola, a species native to Europe, it carries more problems. First of all (unlike the hybrids) it’s tolerant of almost all soils–although it’s native soil is alkaline, it’s doing just fine in our acidic local soil, and especially in wooded areas of the Douglas-fir and Garry Oak ecosystems. (See this article on the Vancouver Master Gardener website.) It also (unlike the hybrids) produces berries, toxic to humans and small animals, but not to birds. So the birds eat the berries and deposit the seeds wherever they fly, spreading Daphne laureola far beyond where it was planted.

It is undeniably a pretty shrub, but it has too many disadvantages to justify planting it in your garden. Alternatives that meet the same cultural needs include Skimmia, Sarcococca,  Pieris, small Rhododendrons and Azaleas (although the last two aren’t fragrant), and even the beautiful Daphne odora and Daphne x transatlantica.

Photo Credit Great Plant Picks

Photo Credit Great Plant Picks

Would you consider removing your Daphne laureloa?