It’s called forcing, when you cut branches from the trees and shrubs and bring them in to flower early, but I prefer to think of it as gently encouraging. We had an unseasonably warm few days last week, and my forsythia was heavy with buds. The contractor who’d planted it for me years ago had asked why I wanted such a weedy shrub. At the time, my only answer was that my parents had had a row of them, and they seemed so cheery in early spring — I’m not normally a yellow fan, but I make an exception for forsythia (and daffodils).

Now, though, I’d add that weediness can be a virtue. That first photo is the forsythia unpruned. I went in with my pruners and clipped away branches that were going off to the sides, falling over and touching the ground, crossing other branches. I neatened up the whole shrub, which gave me a nice armful of branches to take back inside.

Then a few sharp splits to the stems (you can take a hammer to them, if you prefer), and submerged in a warm bath I had ready. I left them overnight (putting a towel over the stems to weigh them down into the water, as they kept stubbornly popping up). And now they’re waiting in water; I’ll try to remember to change it every few days. The buds should continue to swell, and then open, sometime in the next 1-8 weeks, giving me a host of little yellow flowers that shout the news that spring is coming, spring is almost here.


In the depths of a Chicago winter, I need the reminder.

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