Its OK to fool Mother Nature – waiting for spring – bringing the outdoors in

Helen Yoest at Smith & Hawkins, Crabtree Valley Mall, Raleigh

Helen Yoest at Smith & Hawkins, Crabtree Valley Mall, Raleigh

It seems spring can never come soon enough. Here in Raleigh, spring can last three weeks or three months; I think it is the most unpredictable season and yet, still one of the most anticipated. This is why I suggest bringing spring inside early using some tricks to “force” nature or by using what is readily available from the grocery store, garden centers, and florists (shops.)

Forcing Forsythia Branches

Forsythia is widely available in this area and nearly everyone knows someone with a forsythia bush to share. Also, some shops will carry cuttings to take home for the blooms.

If you are to do the cutting, it is best to cut when the temperature is above freezing. Look for branches with lots of buds; the flower buds are fatter and larger than leaf buds. I like to cut long branches to give a graceful presence to a table. Follow these steps for great success:

· Use sharp pruners to cut your branches. I carry a water bucket with me when I take cuttings from the garden. This way they I can get them to water quickly.

· When you cut your branches, consider this as judicious pruning and shape the forsythia bush as you cut.

· Once inside, re-cut each branch at a sharp slant and peel or scrape back about an inch of bark or mash the ends with a hammer. Most woody stems need extra surface exposed to help uptake water more readily.

· Remove foliage from area that will be under water.

· Store in a container with tepid water and an indoor temperature between 60 – 70 degrees F.

· Change water often.

· It is a good idea to mist branches daily, but I often forget and they still seem to turn out nice.

· Expect the branches to bloom in 2 – 3 weeks.

· Once the flower buds begin to swell, arrange in a vase and move into a well-lit room.

· Blooms will last about a week.

Of course there are many other plants that can be forced and enjoyed indoors such as fruit trees, witch-hazel, pussy willows, flowering quince, bulbs and others. If you forget to force in time or if forcing just sounds like too much trouble, then you will enjoy the following ideas.

Taking advantage of what is readily available from grocery stores, garden centers, and florists

There really is nothing like a daffodil to say spring is here! The shops are eager to help you. Often times, shops have already done the forcing for you and have available for purchase bunches of forsythia, witch-hazel, and pussy willow. For a little cost, you get so much enjoyment and most of these purchases last longer than fresh cut flowers.

· Bring home blooming forsythia branches and arrange in a vase.

· Purchase blooming daffodil, hyacinths and tulips from the Shops.

· Bring home blooming witch-hazel, and pussy willows.

· Bring home blooming flowing quince.

· Bring in cut azalea branches. When done sparingly, the leggy look often takes on a Zen-like calming quality in a pretty vase.

· Floating Camellias in a bowl is also very refreshing and they last a very long time. Certain species can be cut as branches and arranged in a vase, but most common are varieties that look best floating in a bowl.

Just a little amount can make a huge difference. Nothing says spring more than spring flowers! One vase full of blooming Forsythia, a potted hyacinth, or a handful of daffodils brings the spring inside just enough to, hopefully, get us through winter.

Helen Yoest, with Gardening with Confidence lives, gardens, coaches, and writes in Raleigh, Zone 7b,



  1. tina said

    Hi Helen, Forcing branches is a good pasttime. I haven’t tried it though. I do notice buds and yellow on my forsythia and am excited. I thought I killed it last fall when I moved it.

    I have picked a name, talked with some local folks who have the same idea, and am moving forward. Yeah me! One step at a time and thanks again. Okay if I pick your brain as I go along at my pace?

  2. Of course, Tina, anytime. What’s your Garden Coaching business name? Glad to hear the Forsythia made the move.

  3. tina said

    Coach In the Garden. No big surprise there. I got my domain name last night. Now if I can figure out how to write a web page to get that up and running. I am going thru the tutorial right now. What a long process. Next stop the permits I guess downtown. I am being pretty methodical.

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