How to force cherry blossoms; Buffalo’s Cherry Blossom Ball is April 2

cherry blossoms in Buffalo NY
If you can’t wait for blossoms to appear on woody shrubs or trees, you can force them inside in late winter or early spring. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

It’s easy to force cherry blossoms, say the organizers of Buffalo’s Cherry Blossom Ball, and the technique can be used on other branches including forsythia, apple and plum.

Forced cherry branches will be used in centerpieces for the ball, which will take place from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Thursday, April 2 in the Great Hall of the Buffalo History Museum, 1 Museum Court, Buffalo. Tickets are $150 per person. Tickets can be purchased online by March 30.

The ball benefits the Cherry Blossom Festival, which will be held May 2 to 9. The festival focuses on the beautiful cherry tree orchard in the Japanese Garden of Buffalo, located behind the Buffalo History Museum. It will include a mix of traditional and modern Japanese cultural experiences and other ethnic arts that are part of Buffalo’s diverse character for festival-goers of all ages.

How to force cherry blossoms

First, get some cherry tree branches, but don’t cut them from the Japanese Garden!

“Our conservators are careful to cut with a purpose to encourage the shape and maintain the health of the Japanese Garden trees,” said Trudy Stern, co-chairman of the Buffalo Cherry Blossom Festival.

“The pruning of trees in the Japanese Garden would be devastating to our grove,” added Paula J. Hinz, co-chair. The third co-chair is Atsuko Nishida-Mitchell.

For the ball centerpieces, the co-chairs got branches from a Youngstown grower who was pruning his cherry trees. If you don’t have your own cherry trees or can’t get branches from a friend, it might be easier to find branches from apple trees, plum trees or forsythia bushes. Stern and Hinz say this technique can be used with any of those.

forcing cherry blossoms in Buffalo
You can speed up flowering by placing the branches in a warmer, brighter area. Photo courtesy Paula J. Hinz

Most of these trees or shrubs need to experience a period of cold where the plant goes dormant. You should be able to try this technique as early as late January, and and you can try it now in March.

All you do is clip off the branch you want to force and place the branch in cool water inside.

Because they have to have flowers in time for the ball, “Timing is everything,” said Stern. “If I know I want a floral arrangement in two to three weeks, I start it then.”

If you want to slow down the bloom time, put the branches in a cool, dark basement, she said. If you want to speed things up, put them in a warm, bright place.

“Mine were near a north window and they are doing nothing,” Hinz said. “I’ve moved them to a sunny spot in a cool attic to see what will happen.”

Hinz also used a hammer to smash the base of the limb to encourage the intake of water.

“I read that I should do that and thought, ‘I’ll just use scissors,’ but the tree limb is too thick,” Hinz explained. Stern doesn’t smash the branch and has still been successful.

If you want sweet little leaves on a branch, use this technique on curly willow and lilac. They’re very cooperative, Stern said.

4 Comments on “How to force cherry blossoms; Buffalo’s Cherry Blossom Ball is April 2

  1. I have been forcing flowering trees and shrubs for a while, but nice of you to tell your readers the way to do this.

  2. It really works! I cut some branches from my quince and lilac bush 2 weeks ago when we actually had above freezing temperatures. The lilacs are leafing nicely and the quince has buds that will hopefully open soon into pretty coral blossoms.

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