Branches of several kinds of trees and shrubs can be forced into bloom indoors at this time of the year. It usually takes two to six weeks, depending on the kind chosen. Pussy willow, forsythia, cornelian cherry and swamp red maple are among the best.
This is possible because the flower buds of those that bloom in the spring are fully formed in the fall. After a period of cold (called their chill requirement) they're ready to open when warmth and moisture are adequate. Usually at least six weeks of cold temperatures, below 40 degree, are necessary before the buds can break dormancy.
Look over the branches carefully to determine which contain a lot of flower buds, and select only those that are well budded. The larger, fatter buds are usually flower buds, the smaller ones leaf buds.
Keep in mind where you'll be displaying your forced branches and the type of container you'll be using. Select the ones that have interesting curves, angles or straight lines according to your arrangement needs.
Prune the branches flush with the trunk or main branch so no stubs are left -- a clean, flush cut will heal repidly. Take branches from several shrubs to avoid removing all the blossoms from a single plant. A few branches from a medium-size shrub will never be missed.
Soak the branches overnight in room-temperature water, then put them in pails of water for forcing. A piece of charcoal in the water will heop to keep it from fouling. (Charcoal briquettes are not suitable because they're held together with coal-tar derivatives.) Change the water about twice a week.
The pails of branches should be kept in a relatively cool place, 60-degree to 65-degree; higher temperatures speed up flower development but reduce the size, color and keeping quality of the blooms.
In the early stages the branches don't need much light. When the buds swell and are almost ready to open, they need good light, but not sunlight, for the colors to develop. When the buds start to show color, take the branches from the pail and put them in containers for display. Keep them in a cool place at night and during daylight hours when you're not home.
Q -- There is a huge tree growing right near our house, I have been told the roots are under the house and driveway, probably around sewer and water pipes. What can I put on it or in the ground near it to kill it? The main thing is to stop it from growing .
A -- A big tree in the right place is valuable, and if it hasn't given you trouble so far, chances are good that it may not become a problem if you keep dead limbs removed so they won't fall and damage the house. By all means have a tree expert give you an opinion after looking it over. Then decide.
Q -- Some years back I planted three clumps of bamboo in my back yard. It spreads and spreads. What can I do to get rid of it?
A -- To eradicate an entire planting of running bamboo, cut down all the canes. Repeat the cutting when new canes that follow have reached their full height. A few small canes continue to appear after these two cuttings. Cut them all down when they appear and the rhizomes (underground stems) should soon die.
Q -- Twice now I've planted cantaloupes and cucumbers in my garden and the cantaloupes didn't taste very good. Are they getting cross-pollinated by being in close proximity to the cukes, or do the bees and other insects cause it ?
A -- Cantaloupes do not cross with cucumbers, so that's not the problem. The problem may a deficiency of boron in the soil. Have your soil tested -- you can have it done free of charge at Virginia Tech. Telephone your county agent about it.
Q -- I have a snake plant (Sansevieria zeylanica) with a beautiful flower on it, and everybody I tell about it thinks I am nuts. They say it does not have flowers. Is my plant something unusual ?
A -- Not really; there are 34 different kinds of Sansevieria, and all of them have been known to bloom. The ones that bloom are the ones that get very good care.