It’s time to force spring to come to Maine. (After this week – and the bad news from Punxsutawney Phil – boy is it ever.)

While you can’t make Mother Nature relinquish her hold, you can force some of your spring-blooming shrubs to make an early appearance.

A friend emailed me a couple of weeks ago, saying a chunk of ice had fallen on one of her favorite rhododendrons, cracking off a branch. She wanted to know if she could bring the branch inside and force it to bloom, giving her some welcome winter color.

I told her to give it a try: Make a clean cut in place of the jagged cut created by the ice, cut an X in the bottom of the stem (splitting the stem into quarters or at least in half), put the stem into hot water (not boiling, think baby’s bath temperature) and wait for the buds to blossom.

You can do this with just about any spring-flowering shrub. Once it has been cold enough outside that the plant thinks it has been through winter – yes, plants think, and they know they’ve been cold – bring the branches inside, where they will think it is spring.

You don’t have to wait for the ice to break off a branch. Walk around your yard and cut a few branches that you intended to prune anyway.

Forsythia and lilacs are among the easiest to force, but you can also try magnolias, daphne, azaleas, pussy willows, crabapples and perhaps red-twig dogwoods.

You want to change the water every now and then if it gets cloudy, and maybe mist the branches and buds above the water so they don’t dry out. We usually leave a big vase of branches on our dining room table, since that room gets lots of afternoon sun. It seems like late March in there some days.

I’m sure the blooming branches will help you think warm thoughts while you wait for spring truly to arrive.