What’s Winter For?

From some plants’ points of view, winter provides an essential chilling period. In climates with seasonal temperature variations, selection has favored seeds that delay germination until the warmth of spring arrives. Then, in soil still moist from winter rain and snow, tiny plants get a good start before the onset of hot dry weather.

Woody plants that set buds in the fall will bloom according to environmental cues (a few months of cold weather), and may not bloom if they don’t get sufficient chilling – a safety valve to prevent early emergence when soft tissue might be damaged.

Flowering shrubs and trees just coming out of their winter dormancy can be fooled into even earlier bloom by forcing them as the buds begin to swell. Cut branches, bring them inside and put them in water for an early bouquet in late winter. A partial list:

  • Witch hazel (Hamamelis)
  • Forsythia
  • Flowering quince
  • Red flowering currant (Ribes)
  • Cherries
  • Apples
  • Sarcococca (sweet box)
  • Bulbs
  • Vine maple
  • Redbud
  • Magnolia
  • Hawthorn

Instructions and details HERE.

Keep in mind the conditions in your own locale, and inspect plants for suitable buds before cutting. The fatter buds are the flowers. Make pruning cuts properly – cutting at a main branch junction (don’t whack off the tips randomly!)

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