Most blooming branches, (a welcome sight in the spring!) produce either small, delicate, spicate flowers or catkins along linear, woody branches. Several genera have mild fragrances.
Blooming branches fall among several families:
PRUNUS: the stone fruits, including cherries, plums, apricots, peaches, nectarines and almonds. Colors are pastel pink, bright pink or white.
SPIRAEA (BRIDAL WREATH and CHAENOMELES) are members of the Rosaceae (rose) family, which originated in Eastern Asia and Japan. Relatives include rose, Cotoneaster, apple and pear. Spiraea blooms are white or pink, depending on the species. Chaenomeles available in peach, pink, orange, red and white.
FORSYTHIA (GOLDEN BELLS) is a member of the Oleaceae (olive) family. Relatives, most of which are native to Eastern Europe and China, include Osmanthus, ash, jasmine, lilac and olive. Forsythia blooms are yellow.
SALIX (PUSSY WILLOW) is a member of the Salicaceae family and is related to cottonwood, poplar and aspen. Pussy-willow catkins are fuzzy and have a silvery, gray-white color.
Blooming branches are generally available in the late winter and early spring. They can be forced into bloom earlier with special care.
Do not mash, smash or split woody branch stem ends; these practices actually inhibit water absorption because they damage the vascular systems of the branches
Blooming branches will respond to a drink of 1 percent ethanol (such as found in gin or vodka) added to their flower-food solution. Additional sugar also will assist with bud development; however, additional sugar will increase the growth of bacteria, so either change the solution every day or add a capful or so of chlorine bleach to the solution to help control the bacteria.
To force branches into bloom, place them into warm flower-food solution with additional sugar for 12 hours. Keep the humidity high by covering the branches and container with plastic or misting the branches frequently. Replace the solution frequently, to keep it warm, and recut the stems to keep them open.
To allow branches to bloom at their own rate, store them in a brightly lit, warm, humid area until they reach the desired stage of development.
Adding blooming branches to your arrangements can create a fun and unique design that is distinct from the “norm”. Experiment and have fun!