Garden Therapy Notes

 A Collection of Gardening Information and Inspiration




 March 11, 2013

Forcing Flowering Branches   

Mid February I decided to collect some forsythia branches to share with a group of residents at a nursing home. I don't have a forsythia bush myself but the laundromat I go to has a huge one. One sunny Sunday afternoon I went over and kindly asked the cashier if I could take a few branches. She said "I've seen stranger things go on out there...go for it."

 Trina looking at forsythia bush

I tried to find mature branches which are usually thicker (1/2") and have more flower buds. I cut the branches about 100cm in length and made sure I had enough for everyone in the group.

Trina pruning forsythia branches

I put them in a huge vase with water as soon as I got home. The next morning I put them in a large plastic bag and took them to work. I put them back in water when I arrived which made a beautiful display. The group of residents participating in this activity came into the room and instantly expressed curiosity about the bare branches. "What are we going to do with these branches?" "Where did they come from?" "What are they?" I explained that we're going force flowering branches and today we're working with Forsythia. Everyone grabbed a branch and sat around the table. I wanted to know if any of them were familiar with this plant. Have they seen it flower? Did they ever grow it? A discussion developed and from it came the following:

  • "Forsythia flowers are yellow. They bloom in April for most of Southern Ontario." 
  • "It's time to fertilize the lawn when the forsythia is flowering" 
  • "This plant can grow into a huge bush and needs to be pruned after it flowers to maintain a compact shape" 
  • "I remember seeing these flowers when i walked to school in the spring" 
  • "They remind me of Easter time" 
  • "My husband had one in the garden" 
  • "I don't think they have a smell" 

With pruners in hand I demonstrated how to prepare the branches before putting them in the vase with warm water. I made two cuts in the bottom of each branch and peeled a couple inches of skin off. I explained that this will help the branch absorb the water and deliver it to the buds.


peeling barck off forsythia branchsplit forsythia branchcutting end of forsythia branch

I asked everyone to take a close look at the buds and mentioned that there are two different buds. We took a close look but couldn't really see the difference. The flower buds are suppose to be larger and the leaf buds are skinny and pointy. Lastly, everyone put their branch in the water and hoped for the best.

forsyhia branches with buds

The following week I was anxious to see how the branches were doing. In one week the buds had started to open and I could see the yellow petals. It gave me butterflies in my stomach because I was excited to show the group. I was happy to find out that the residents were already aware. Some of the participants had been keeping an eye on them all week. They thought that it was magical, the whole process, and enjoyed witnessing it. And isn't that what nature is? Magical? These bare brown branches were turning into something beautiful. The whole act of connecting with nature in this way reaffirms it's beauty and mystery. By experiencing it we feel hopeful, inspired and curious. These feelings can enhance our quality for life.

We knew that we had to wait a few more days until the buds fully opened. This gave us all something to look forward to and we shared this excitement.

In gardening and life "we win some and we lose some"; this was an obvious win. This "win" lifted our hearts. I really recommend this activity for any group or individual. Plant a forsythia bush if you have a sunny spot and prune it soon after the flowers finish in the spring.


  • Uplift mood 
  • Promote sense of hope 
  • Promote sense of joy 
  • Promote sense of curiosity 
  • Social interaction  

Happy Growing,

Trina Alix



Subscribe For Your Free Gift:

* indicates required

The Free Gift is a powerful exercise that will help you grow a stronger connection with nature.