Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Nature Study Notes :: Watching Spring Unfold--Indoors!

Sorry for the horrible lighting is this photo, but here's what my kitchen sink looks like right now:

Signs of a lovely couple weeks of nature study!

One of my favorite things to do with the kids is bring in twigs to force indoors, then watch the same process happen naturally outside.  It gives us a chance to see the change in an up-close controlled environment and do some extra observing and sketching.

Right now we're watching cuttings from a sycamore tree, a horse chestnut tree, and our pluot tree.

:: The sycamore

On our nature study outing last week, we noticed the sycamore buds starting to burst.  We took one cutting with all buds still closed to watch at home, and another already opened to sketch right away.  This is the first time we have caught them at this stage, and they are so interesting to look at!  Hairy bud covers splitting to reveal velvety, teeny-tiny sycamore leaves, and their familiar seed balls in infantile groups of three, still green and soft.

:: The horse chestnut (aka California buckeye)

These are really satisfying buds to watch open at home.  It only takes a couple days to go through the whole process:

I'm glad we grabbed this one when we did, because by this past week, it was hard to find a bud still closed at the park--they had pretty much all burst open.  A friend's son described it as "fireworks," and I think that's a very apt description!

You can see we did the same thing last year.  The kids really enjoy checking the progress each morning.

:: The pluot tree

We always look for the first blossoms of each year to mark in our Calendar of Firsts.  We spotted this year's just a few days ago--a few tiny white-pink blossoms high up out of reach.  I snipped a twig to watch bloom indoors that same day.  A couple days later, the buds were bright green against the dark knobby wood.  This morning, there are a bits of white peeking through the tips.  They're set to open soon!

Have you done anything similar?  Any other kinds of trees we should be watching?  And do you enjoy watching spring unfold, petal by petal, as much as we do?


  1. What a great idea - we'll do this! Right now it's snowy and about 17 degrees outside, and I'm fighting the despair - twigs blossoming inside will help keep spirits up and will give us something to draw in our journals.

    1. Yes, bring them indoors and stay warm while you bask in their blossomy, leafy loveliness! :)

  2. A fun idea!
    We have an odd wild cherry tree down the road that started blooming on new years and threw off our whole calendar of firsts...

    1. Haha--yeah, the kids noticed on the way to the park today that the bradford pear trees are now all un-blossomed and re-leafed! They start blooming (bright white!) in January around here and are all finished by the time the sand cherry trees and plum/pluots get started. It's neat, though, to see how it varies among the varieties--and year to year too! We're a couple weeks early this year.

  3. No, I have not ever done anything like this, but I want to!! Thank you for the inspiration, Celeste! Any tips for what to look for in choosing a twig to bring indoors? Should it already have something indicating that there is life, for example, rather than a dry twig, I presume??

    1. Yes, we look for ones with bulging buds, Dawn. They don't have to be green yet (our pluot twig was completely brown when we brought it in), but they'll at least have knobby bits where you can imagine green peeking through soon. :) Hope you have fun trying it!

    2. Bulging buds. Got it! Will be obtaining some today!!

      Interesting timing here, too. Now that we are settled in a place relatively permanently we are finally able to choose and follow a tree through an entire year. Just a few weeks ago my children chose their trees and we took pics of them with the trees. We also tried to ID their barren branches. Successfully so for my oldest - we think his is a gingko despite no signs of life when we investigated last - but the one my youngest chose is not so clear to us. His did show signs of life even then, so I'll be checking it out today to obtain a sample to bring inside. Yay!

  4. I've done this to propagate a few different plants but not in a while. We've had some scorcher days here & going out on a nature walk is the last thing we'd want to do but this would work well. I just pulled out some rocket that had gone to seed so we also have some roots to study.