When sorting through nursery catalogs and sketching your planting plan for spring, pencil in early-flowering trees and shrubs. Even before outdoor bloom time, though, you can pluck bare-but-budding branches, and with a gentle nudge and a few weeks, they'll brighten interior landscapes with towering sprays of pale pink, deep rose, red, white, or yellow blooms.
Use the chart below to determine shrubs and trees that are terrific for early blooms. The chart provides a general time line; shrubs and trees may flower earlier or later depending on climate and growing conditions. The closer to a plant's natural bloom time you harvest its branches, the quicker the flowers will sprout indoors. Prune branches on a day that's above freezing to ease the transition between outside and inside temperatures.
Depending on where you live and what you plant, you can start hauling in armloads of Cornelian cherry dogwood (Cornus mas), forsythia, vernal witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis), and pear tree branches as early as January.
In February, gather branches from flowering quince (Chaenomeles spp.), rhododendron, pussy willow (Salix discolor), apple and crab apple (Malus spp.) trees, and cherry (Prunus spp.) trees.
Continue the chain of soul-lifting spring color with March-clipped boughs of magnolias, mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia), beautybush (Kolkwitzia amabilis), lilacs, flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), mock orange (Philadelphus spp.), bridalwreath (Spiraea prunifolia), Deutzia, and Fothergilla.
Continued on page 2: Placement