I have been treating myself to cut flowers this winter, to keep my spirits up when I can’t be outdoors without it hurting. It’s amazing how a pot of pink and yellow tulips or bright yellow daffodils lifts the mood.

Another way I keep this color indoors is to snip flowering branches and force them into bloom indoors. February and March are the perfect months to do this since the shrubs and trees have had enough chilling and are beginning their stretch to come out of winter dormancy.

As you begin to snip, use good pruning principles such as not leaving stubs, taking branches all the way back to a main branch, and pruning evenly from around the plant instead of all on one side. Use sharp pruners and immediately bring the plants indoors into the warmth.

It’s not necessary to pound the ends of the branches with a hammer or slit the stem a few inches before putting in water as some sources recommend. Merely giving them a clean cut and putting the entire stem in a tub in a few inches of warm water for a few hours works quite well. A bathtub is ideal.

When you are ready to arrange your stems, make another clean cut, remove any stems or buds that will be below water level and put them in a vase of warm water. Be sure to choose a sturdy vase because woody stems are quite heavy and can tip a vase easily. Change the water every few days. Make a clean cut each time you change the water, and in a couple of weeks, you should have blossoms to thrill you with the promise of spring.

Forsythia is an all-time favorite, and a vase full of these bright yellow flowers can truly make you feel like spring is just around the corner. Not only do they have rich blossoms, but delicate tiny green leaves as well.

Crabapples and apples, plums and cherries force well. Apricots, peaches and pears need to be pruned every year anyway, so why not bring in the prunings and enjoy them really early in the season? Even cotoneasters will bloom indoors with delicate pink rose-like flowers. Other good choices include early spring bloomers such as redbud, flowering quince, hawthorn, honeysuckle, witchhazel and lilac.

We don’t often think of maples and oaks as having attractive flowers, but they are absolutely beautiful when viewed up close. Red maple has delicate red flowers that dangle at the ends of chartreuse stems. And don’t forget the catkin producers such as pussywillow, alder, poplar and birch. The dangling soft catkins are lovely additions to a flower bouquet.

You can also force branches for their leaves. The delicately lobed oak and maple leaves are quite lovely as are viburnums, hypericums, deciduous holly and witchhazel.

Kate Jerome, a Kenosha writer and teacher, holds a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin and is the former Urban Farm director at Gateway Technical College. She is the owner of the consulting business Kate Jerome’s Garden to Kitchen. Her website is www.kjerome.com.

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