It is simple really...just grab your pruners, snip off a few crossing branches with plenty of big buds and plop them into a vase of water indoors. In a few short weeks, they will bloom, bringing spring right into your home!
Which trees should you cut branches from?
Anything that blooms in the early spring is a good candidate. Classic choices include forsythia (bright yellow!), star magnolia (white and pink) and even redbud (little pink wiggly blooms). You can prune anything that has developed buds though -- you might check out weigela or lilac or Bradford pear. It never hurts a tree to have crossing branches pruned out, so experiment a little and see what blooms!
How do I know which branches to prune?
Crossing branches are your best bet. Dead wood should also be cut out, but it won't bloom for you. Crossing branches rub against each other and cause wounds on the bark.
How do I know that the branches will make flowers?
Any tree that blooms in the spring should have a fair amount of leaf buds and flower buds. Any apple or cherry tree will have plenty! The leaf buds are slightly smaller than the flower buds in most cases, so just look closely and you should be able to tell how many flowers you will eventually have.
Once the branches have bloomed, you have a couple choices. #1 Toss them in the compost to add a little air to the pile (the branches will create air pockets amidst the heavier, thicker items like leaves). #2 go ahead and stick the branch into the ground or a pot of soil. Some will take off and make new plants for you. Dogwood, Willow and Forsythia are classic spring bloomers that will root easily.
So if you aren't able to break out the bird feeders, barbecues and trowels just yet, force a couple branches to hold you over!