As we wait for Puxatawney Phil to tell us whether we’ll have 6 more weeks of winter, we know spring will be a bit of a wait, regardless of what he says.

But why wait for it to happen outside when we can bring spring indoors now! How? Basically, you’re going to be tricking your spring-flowering shrubs into thinking it’s springtime.

Here are some guidelines to getting their branches to bloom:

  • Cut branches only if the outdoor temperature is above freezing.
  • Choose branches that have lots of flower buds (these are bigger than the leaf buds on branches), and cut branches 1 to 3 feet long.
  • Make sure you don’t disfigure the bush you are cutting from, since you still want it to look good in the spring.
  • After bringing the branches inside, re-cut the stems to be sure air hasn’t blocked the cut end. Smash the woody ends (gently) with a hammer. Remove buds that will be underwater to prevent rot.
  • Place in a vase of warm (not hot) water. Place in a cool location away from direct sun. Higher temperatures may cause the buds to develop rapidly, but you’ll sacrifice size, color and quality.
  • Change the water 2-3 times per week.
  • After the buds have started opening, place your branches wherever you like.
  • Generally speaking forsythia and pussywillow take 1 to 3 weeks to force; apple, crabapple and cherry can take up to 4 weeks; and lilac up to 5. In addition, you can force redbud, flowering quince, dogwood and others from your yard.

So bring spring early, force a mixture of branches, and create lovely indoor arrangements while waiting for spring outdoors to arrive.