TIME: 15 to 20 minutes
COST: About $15 to 20 for a bunch of branches from a florist
Pruning shears or loppers
1. Prune your tree. When buds show color or a few flowers are beginning to open, choose a branch that's crowding other branches or is expendable (make certain you don't cut a branch that will ruin the shape of the tree). Use pruning shears to cut small branches, or loppers to remove branches larger than 1 inch in diameter. Cut one branch for a smaller vase and three to five branches for a large vase or floral bucket.
2. If necessary, trim the stem ends to fit the vase. Snip off dead or damaged twigs.
3. On smaller stems, cut a slit in the bottom of the branch to help the stem absorb water more easily. On larger branches (3/4- to 1-inch diameter), lightly hammer the stem end for the same effect.
4. Fill the vase with water and a packaged floral preservative or a solution of 1 tablespoon sugar and 1/4 teaspoon bleach in 1 gallon of hot tap water. Arrange the branches.