Winter flowering cherry, flowering quince, witch hazel and forsythia are finishing bloom. Later types of flowering cherry and flowering quince bloom immediately afterward. Lilac, redbud and weigela bloom only slightly later. Flowering crabapple extends the season of such flashy early bloom. It is relatively easy to force any of these for even earlier bloom.

Forcing is more popular where cool weather inhibits bloom through winter. It accelerates bloom simply by exposing it to home interior warmth. Bulbs that remain dormant in cold gardens bloom sooner in warm homes. Winter is the most popular time for forcing bulbs. It is now time to force formerly dormant deciduous stems to bloom a bit earlier for spring.

It is less wasteful to force deciduous stems to bloom than to force bulbs to bloom. Bulbs rarely survive because they exhaust their resources without replenishment. Those that do survive and have potential to bloom again may take a year to recover. Bulbs are not cheap. Deciduous stems are free, and are as disposable as other popular cut flowers.

May the Force be with you.

The most popular stems to force are the fruitless counterparts of fruit trees. This includes flowering cherry, flowering crabapple and flowering quince. Flowering quince is actually not closely related to fruiting quince though. It also includes flowering apricot, flowering plum, flowering peach and flowering pear. Flowering pear is likely to smell badly though.

Stems from deciduous trees that actually produce fruit are just as easy to force. They are only less popular because they are not bred to be as pretty. Also, removal of their stems compromises fruit production. Those who plan to force such stems can leave a few extra during dormant pruning. Collection of stems should not damage or disfigure the source.

Stems are ready to force when their floral buds are just about to pop. Ideally, some buds should be slightly exposing their floral color within. A few flowers could be blooming. At that stage, bloom accelerates significantly in response to home interior warmth. Aridity can desiccate larger blooms. Otherwise, wisteria, dogwood, deciduous magnolias and perhaps azaleas are conducive to forcing.

Highlight: Winter Flowering Cherry

Its name describes it simply. Winter flowering cherry, Prunus X subhirtella, is a flowering cherry that blooms for winter. It is more popular where winters are cool enough to inhibit other bloom. It is less common here only because of other options for wintry floral color. Besides, slightly more floriferous flowering cherries bloom almost immediately afterward.

WIntertime bloom is actually a bit more reliable here than where it is more popular. Frost is too mild locally to damage it much, and mostly occurs earlier. Rain is mostly too light and too brief to dislodge much of the bloom. Bloom is a bit less profuse than that of other cherries because it is a bit more continuous. Therefore, it recovers from minor damage.

The relatively common sort of this uncommon flowering cherry blooms for late winter. Its bloom is slightly lavenderish pink. Some rare cultivars can bloom as early as autumn or as late as spring. A few are pendulous. Floral color ranges from white to pink. Floral form is mostly single but can be double. Deciduous foliage turns yellow or orange for autumn.

Tony Tomeo can be contacted at .