UNITED STATES—Some of the earliest of spring flowers are done blooming. More are just beginning. Then, a few early spring flowers barely qualify as early. Their fresh color is especially pleasing after such an atypically wintry winter. Many are delightful cut flowers. A few that bloom on bare deciduous stems are conducive to forcing. Even the earliest bloom could be earlier.
Bare stems are simpler and less wasteful to force to bloom than bulbs and potted plants. Most bulbs and some potted plants do not survive long after forcing. Dormant deciduous plants easily replace a few forceable stems. Forcing such stems is as simple as bringing cut flowers into a home. The difference is that it is premature, immediately prior to bloom.
Flower buds on dormant deciduous stems begin to swell during warming spring weather. Such stems are ready for forcing when these floral buds are about to pop open. Ideally, a bit of floral color should be visible through some of the bud scales. A few flowers may be blooming. Collective bloom accelerates within the warmth of a home interior after cutting.
Fruit trees bloom almost as impressively as their fruitless counterparts.
Flowering but fruitless counterparts of popular fruit trees are some of the best for forcing. These include but are not limited to flowering cherry, plum, apricot and other stone fruits. Flowering pomme fruit trees, such as quince, crabapple and pear are almost as popular. Related fruiting stone and pome fruit trees are as conducive to forcing, but not as garish.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with simpler bloom. Some fancy flowering cherry trees bloom with single white flowers like fruiting cherries. However, cutting stems from fruiting trees decreases fruit production. With a bit of planning, dormant pruning can allow a few undesirable stems to remain. These stems are then available for cutting and forcing later.
Witch hazel cultivars are exemplary for forcing, but are done blooming. Flowering quince and forsythia are now finishing within most climates. Redbud, lilac, wisteria and perhaps weigela are still conducive to forcing. Dogwood and deciduous magnolia can perform as well if humidity is not too minimal. So should some acacias, although their fragrance and pollen may be distasteful.
Highlight: Flowering Quince
Flowering crabapples are the same genus as fruiting crabapples. Flowering cherries are the same genus as fruiting cherries. The flowering quince, Chaenomeles spp., though, is not the same genus as fruiting quince. Available cultivars are generally floriferous but sterile hybrids. Only four basic species produce small fruit that are good for little more than jelly.
They bloom magnificently though, on bare stems, prior to foliation. Profusion of bloom is comparable to that of flowering crabapple and flowering cherry. It begins early enough to finish before some flowering cherries begin. Flowering crabapples start even later. Floral color ranges from bright white to deep red. This includes orangish pink and orangish red.
Unlike flowering cherry trees and flowering crabapple trees, flowering quince is shrubby. The largest might grow no higher than ten feet, with irregular branch structure. Some old cultivars are thorny. Modern cultivars are more compact, shaplier and thornless. Younger trunks should methodically replace older trunks. Pruning can happen after spring bloom.
Tony Tomeo can be contacted at tonytomeo.com.