Do you want to force a branch?
Coincidentally, late winter is the best time to prune deciduous trees and large shrubs. We usually head out into the yard with pruners in hand starting in late February or early March. We get a jump-start on our pruning along with an early gift of spring color inside our house. We prune our trees and shrubs for shape and to remove crossing branches and old or diseased wood. From the wood we have cut off the plant we can select branches for forcing that are less than 1/2 inch in diameter and cut them to the desired length.
Many ornamental trees and shrubs set their flower buds during the previous growing season. These buds will usually come out of dormancy after two to three weeks of being exposed to warmth and moisture.
Forsythia, pussy willow, quince, cherry, apple, peach, magnolia, are all good candidates.
Choose branches that have lots of buds and put them in water as you work. After bringing the branches inside, fill a sink with very warm water—as hot as you can stand it without scalding your hands. Very warm water is important because it contains the least amount of oxygen. If oxygen gets into the stems it can block water from being taken up, thus preventing hydration.
Hold the stems underwater and recut them at a severe angle an inch or two above the original cut. The stems will quickly absorb the water. Arrange the branches in your vase, which should be filled with warm water so the ends are submerged. Place in a cool room or if you want the process to go more quickly in a warmer room. At this time of year, it may take only a few days for pussy willow to bloom and look their best. Forsythia takes a few days more and the other varieties can take up to several weeks.
It is very satisfying to sit and observe the daily progress of buds as they swell and burst open bringing a bit of spring blossom inside.