The power of forcing (branches, that is)

Some early downiness from the downy serviceberry (Amelanchier) branches I’m forcing

As winter has thrown an I don’t wanna go to bed! tantrum in Toronto, I’m extra glad I decided to trim off a couple of wayward branches from my serviceberry last weekend – and pop them in a vase for early spring bloom. In just a few short days – just enough to blanket the city with snow again – the buds are already starting to break.

Will we see flowers? Well I guess we’ll have to, er, see. But even the emerging pinky green leaves would be welcome. More than welcome!

It’s at this time of year when I feel most like conducting random acts of gardening to improve the form of neighbours’ scruffy Forsythia shrubs (and cadge some branches for forcing). Is there anything to beat a long-lasting bouquet of golden-belled forsythia boughs when spring is looking its most bedraggled?

Forcing branches is so easy, we should all do it. A sharp pruner, clean water and a suitable vase are all you need. Plus, of course, branches, of which forsythia and serviceberry are only two possibilities. For those can’t wait for spring days, this simple trick is the perfect mood lifter.

I posted a link with info on our Toronto Gardens Facebook Page. Why not check it out and give it a try?

[UPDATE:] It’s two weeks later, and my branches are now sporting their delicate white flowers – and without the wind to waft it away, we can also enjoy their light fragrance. The furred flower buds were an interim attraction. Do give it a try!


  1. How timely. I just came in from accidentally running over my Prairie Fire Crabapple sapling with the lawnmower–long story involving a hill and gravity. Guess I'll trim the branches and bring them in to bloom.

  2. I'm really wanting to force some crabapple branches this spring! But I look outside at the cold rain and think . . . maybe tomorrow I'll cut some. Gotta stop procrastinating.

  3. I'm impressed that the serviceberry is opening so quickly. The fuzzy buds look almost like pussy willows now. Hoping there are flowers in there. VW, go out right now and cut yourself some crabapple branches! I few minutes of wet has to be worth it for an advance spring treat.

  4. Helen, I did check out Dave's Bonfire tree – besides the different bark, the leaves on my trees are ornately edged (though I didn't have any pictures of them to post) – like a hawthorne leaf, definitely not like any flowering peaches I've seen. But thanks for the suggestion to check. I'm sure I have some mislabelled plants somewhere in the garden by now and will be grateful when someone points them out to me 🙂

  5. I pruned my plum about a week or so ago….no flowers but the small green leaves have made me very happy. This is the winter that won't let go…I can't wait to see the serviceberries in bloom.

  6. Irena, Perhaps the flowers will follow the leaves on your plum? Even the leaves are very lovely to have indoors till the real spring makes its appearance. It won't be much longer. I saw silver maples and witch-hazel in bloom today!

  7. We certainly need to see more witch hazels in our public and private gardens, they definitely require a second look in bloom. I force a few branches taken from the backyard just to remind myself that warmer weather is around the corner, honestly!

  8. The winter weather made a comeback here too, in southern USA. I was super glad I decided to hold off on planting my veggies on the deck. But my lilies are doing beautifully! Happy gardening!

  9. What a great idea. I need to prune some fruit trees–immediately, if not sooner–and I'll just bring them inside. That'll make the process less painful.

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