Face it, although February is technically the shortest month, it sure feels like the longest when you're inside staring at a dull, lifeless landscape.
Many people know you can force tulips and daffodils to grow indoors, but did you know you can bring branches in from outside for a dazzling spring display in February? Because many ornamental trees and shrubs set their buds during the previous growing season, they need about six weeks of dormancy before the buds will come back out. Here in zone 5, many of the branches you can bring inside will have met that dormant period.
Which plants will work?
And experiment! Sometimes a tree or shrub will surprise you.
1. Choose branches that are pencil thick or smaller. This is a good time to prune many shrubs, so step back and look at the overall shape. Choose branches that are criss-crossed or too long, to correctly prune outdoors while you bring beauty indoors.
2. Make a clean cut and bring the group of branches indoors. To maximize water absorption, re-cut branches in a sink or bucket full of hot water (hot water has the least amount of oxygen, which prevents water from entering the stems).
3. There are several ways to handle the branches. You can arrange them in a vase to watch the bud-swelling process over the next few weeks, or you can keep the branches in water in a cool dark place, and bring them out when the first buds begin to swell. Either way, be sure to change the water every few days, and keep the branches out of direct sunlight and away from a heat source. (A floral preservative or homemade preservative of 1 tbsp. lemon lime soda to one quart water will slow bacterial growth).
4. Some of the branches will even reward you with roots, so you can re-plant outside when the weather warms up!
This is an easy and inexpensive way to bring some spring into your home, right at the point when we all need it the very most.