Archive for ‘Forcing branches’

March 20, 2013

16 Things to Do Now to Make it Feel Like Spring

It’s here!  It’s here!  Spring is here!

Yes, I know, you wouldn’t know it if you were to walk out your front door in Minnesota today.  In fact, you might think it were the middle of January.  I awoke this morning to the weather update of wah-wah, wah-wah, wah, wah with an -18 degree windchill.  Yikes!

If you look at Facebook at all today you’ll see a lot of whining, particularly here in Minnesota.  Unfortunately all of the meteorologists have been touting the weather we had this week last year at 70 and 80 degrees above zero making all of the complaining even worse.  The problem is, last year was NOT THE NORM.  The norm this time of the year in Minnesota is 35 to 40 degrees, which while a high of 18 today isn’t exactly tropical, if you compare it to being 20 degrees off the norm instead of 60 degrees off a record, it’s a little easier to chew.

Weather aside, or maybe because of the weather, I thought it was about time we all got excited for spring so I came up with a few things you can do to get by until the weather catches up with our eagerness.  Some of these things are specific to the Twin Cities area, but similar events are happening across the country.

  1. Force branches. Cut branches off of spring blooming trees and shrubs that need pruning, bring them in and put them in water.  In a few days you’ll have spring inside regardless of the weather outside. Learn more about which kinds of trees and shrubs and how-to here.
  2. Plant an indoor bulb garden.  Many nurseries and garden centers are now carrying bulb gardens that you can watch grow, or better yet, buy bulbs and make your own.
  3. Plan your garden.  Grab plans, pictures and notes from your garden journal and plot out your plan for this season.
  4. Build a plant stand with grow lights and start seeds indoors.
  5. Plant edible spring planters.
  6. Buy yourself some cut flowers.  It doesn’t have to be expensive, even $5 can bring a nice burst of color and a smile to your face.
  7. Go to a flower show.  Macy’s Flower Show is traveling the country.  Check here to see when they’ll be in a city near you.
  8. Make a fairy garden. Need inspiration?  The MN Landscape Arboretum is hosting Tiny Treasures: Fairies and Gnomes through March 31st.
  9. Visit a Farmer’s Market!  This Saturday, March 23, 2013, the Bachman’s on Lyndale will be hosting Fresh From the Freeze the Kingfield and Fulton Farmers Markets in the Greenhouse from 9am – 2pm.  There will be music, entertainment, beer, wine and hard cider too.  A vendor list is posted on their site.
  10. Looking to add some spring to your home?  Check out the Bachman’s Spring Ideas House 2013 from April 4th – April 28th.
  11. Visit the Como Park Conservatory. Can’t get there?  Check out the 360 degree view of The Sunken Gardens and The Palm Dome.
  12. Get baby chicks! Our chickens have brought so much sunshine and joy to some of the coldest days.  Egg|Plant Urban Farm Supply has chicks arriving on a weekly basis.  Order yours now. (I also know of a possible source if you’re local, contact me and I’ll connect you.) You can build your coop while they grow!  Not ready for your own?  Stop by and visit them.
  13. Start a windowsill garden.
  14. Plant grass in egg shells or a basket.  You’ll be ready for Easter.
  15. Take a trip down South.  No, actually I don’t mean on a plane or in a car.  Grab your jacket, don your hat, slip on those boots and head to the South side of your house, apartment building, what have you.  The South side of buildings gets the best sun and typically retains heat making that area a little micro-climate where the ground thaws early and plants emerge first.  A friend told me just yesterday that her tulips are “up” (poking through the ground) on the South side of her house.  Take a trip and report back on what you find!
  16. Feed the birds!  According to the birds spring is definitely here.  Don’t believe me?  Shut everything off, radio, TV, your kids 😉 and listen.  The birds a singing their sweet little heads off.  Want to hear them more clearly?  Hang a feeder in your yard (or fill-up that empty one), they’ll be singing songs of glory for you!

If all else fails, call me!  I’d be happy to chat about and help you plan your yard and garden for the upcoming season!

Happy Spring everyone!


April 20, 2011

Forcing spring – the silver lining

A couple of weeks ago when I went out to cut back my grasses and do a little clean-up in my yard, I was greatly disappointed to find one of the larger branches on my Rhododendron had gotten broken off over the winter.  I’m not sure whether it was just the snow pack or if it had gotten stepped on, but whatever the case, it was a disappointment.  Under closer inspection I found that the flower buds of this branch were not dried out and in fact looked ready to open. Not wanting to waste the beauty of the blossoms and to help ease the pain of the awkward shape of what’s left of my Rhododendron, I invited the branch inside.  It happily accepted.

This lovely little branch now resides in my sunroom in a vase of water and some of it’s dismembered little friends are in a glass of water on my kitchen windowsill.  Within the past few days the buds have popped and I now have ruffled lavender blossoms brightening up my house.   The rest of the Rhododendrons outside have yet to bloom, so I will get to enjoy their splendor once the weather finally warms up a little more.

While I definitely don’t recommend running out and clipping branches off of Rhododendrons, especially because their growth habit does not respond well to pruning, I do recommend forcing branches.  If you would like to invite a little spring into your house, forcing branches is very simple to do.  You can force nearly any kind of spring blooming fruit tree, including apple, flowering crab, apricot, etc. The benefit of the fruit tree blossoms is that they have a lovely sweet scent as well.  Spring blooming shrubs, such as Forsythia, also respond well to forcing (but don’t have the scent).

When cutting branches, please be mindful of the long-term health of the tree or shrub.  Select a branch that with help the overall shape of the plant, not just one that would look pretty in your house for a couple of weeks.  Use a sharp bypass pruner* (not an anvil pruner**) and cut just above a node (the spot on the branch where it will naturally bud).  Make sure not to hack at or tear the bark as that will leave an opening for insects or diseases.  Clean cuts will heal over quickly to protect the plant.  After cutting, bring the branches inside and put them into a container with fresh water.  Change the water every few days to keep it from getting “funky” and within a few days to a week you should have blossoms filling your home.



*Bypass pruners have 2 blades that pass each other like a scissors. Best used for live branches.

** Anvil pruners have 1 blade that chops against a metal or plastic plate.  Best used for dead branches.  Anvils will crush live stems.