Our senses come alive as the seasons cycle from winter to spring, filling us with the irresistible need to clean up, air out, and refresh our surroundings. Here are some simple ways to help you spring ahead on the home front.
Force of Nature
Cut branches of spring-flowering shrubs and trees and bring them inside to bloom. Likely candidates include cherry, crabapple, flowering dogwood, flowering quince, forsythia, honeysuckle, lilac, magnolia, pear, pussy willow, and redbud. Branches can take one to four weeks to produce flowers after cutting; the closer to the natural blooming time, the sooner you’ll see results.
- Choose healthy branches with plenty of flower and leaf buds.
- Use clean, sharp pruning sheers and cut just above a side bud.
- Prune wisely--don't leave gaping holes in the overall shape of the plant.
- Avoid watersprouts (those fast-growing vertical shoots) because they rarely bloom indoors.
- If your cuttings are still snowbound, immerse the branches in warm water and let them soak overnight to encourage blooming.
- Recut the ends at an angle before arranging branches in water in a vase.
- Change the water every few days, especially if it starts looking murky.
- To prolong the blooming season, keep cuttings away from direct sunlight.
Cut flowers are an instant pick-me-up in any room, but for longer-lasting enjoyment try perennial bulbs in pots. You'll find potted tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, and crocuses everywhere from garden centers to supermarkets.
- Choose pots with a good mix of flowers in bloom and buds in waiting.
- Keep the soil moist but not soggy.
- Avoid direct sunlight.
- After the blooms are gone, you can put the whole pot in an out-of-the-way spot in your garden or plant the bulbs where you want to find them next spring. Remove the spent flowers but leave the leaves on: they feed the bulbs.
Pots of boxwood, rosemary, ivy, and wheat grass are inexpensive, easy-care touches of indoor greenery.
- Look for healthy, dense, and evenly-spaced growth.
- Ivy can be trained to grow into an attractive topiary if you wish. Purchase forms from a garden store or make your own from bent wire clothes hangers or chicken wire. Use small twist ties to gently train new growth onto the frame.
- Although it's fun to do, it does take a long time to train boxwood and rosemary into forms. You might prefer to simply trim plants into simple, rounded shapes or let them grow at will with just a light pruning.
- Indirect, bright light is best.
- Keep soil moist but not wet; rosemary prefers drier conditions.
- Boxwood and rosemary should find an outdoor home eventually, unless you have a spot indoors that will sustain their long-term needs.
Want to lighten up your look without spending a lot? You already know this one: fabric.
- Choose a softer color scheme for spring. Make a fabric swatch card to take with you when you shop so you can match colors as you go.
- Sun-washed seafoam colors will easily take you from spring through summer.
- For greater versatility, use plain fabrics for tablecloths and drapes, and coordinate some fun with pattered napkins or pillows if you wish.
- Pillows are quick change artists. Stick to standard 18- or 20-inch throw pillows with removable inserts so all you have to do is switch the covers as the seasons change.
- Sew your own inexpensive pillow slipcovers with simple tie closures instead of zippers. Large tea towels make perfect washable slipcovers: they come in many patterns and colors, and their finished edges won’t unravel in the wash.
After you fling open the windows and air out the rooms, keep things smelling clean and fresh year-round.
- Buy dried lavender flowers and place them by the cupful in bowls throughout the house. Refresh the fragrance from time to time by rubbing a generous pinch between your fingers.
- Moisten cotton pads with a few drops of an essential oil such as lemon, grapefruit or peppermint and place a pad in every closet. To keep the oil from staining surfaces, place the pad in a small open jar.
- Swap out your aromatherapy candles with bamboo reed diffusers set in scented oil. Look, Mom: no soot!
- Try to avoid heavily perfumed or harsh cleaning products. Not only will your house smell better, but you won't expose your household to caustic chemicals.