A Little Spring Fling for Underloved Lanterns.

Have a lantern?  Load it up with forsythia branches and get your porch ready for the shortest decorating season of the year. Spring!

Spring, summer, winter, fall. These are the major seasonal categories for food, clothing and decorating of course.  For food you have your summer BBQs, your fall soups, your winter stews and your spring – holy hell who shrunk my pants – I’m only going to eat air.

I’m always very careful about only eating air from March to May and the air usually comes in the form of an airy pizza crust.

Summer, fall and winter I do up the outside of my house in whatever the season calls for. Ferns in summer, cornstalks in fall, garland and evergreen branches in winter.  Every year without fail I do this.

But spring?  My spring decorating outside usually consists of ripping out the crispy brown evergreen branches and trying to put a bonnet on the neighbourhood raccoon.  The season is just too short. You spend thousands of dollars on a couple of flats of pansies and before you know it, summer has hit and it’s time for real flowers.  I may have exaggerated slightly with “thousands of dollars”.  Maybe.

This year I upped my game though and decorated outside for spring, mainly because we all just lived through what seemed to be the longest winter in history.  It’s true that by the end of March all winters seem like the longest in history, but that doesn’t  make it any less true in our imaginations.

I wanted to get it cleaned up outside a bit and make it look as though Spring is more than just a figment of my imagination. All it took was some sweeping, some glass cleaner and $7 of Forsythia branches.


When I bought these lanterns a few years ago the woman in line behind me asked what I was going to put in them. She said she never knew what to put in them. I said, ALL KINDS OF THINGS!  You can put ANYTHING in them!!  What are you crazy??? What is wrong with you?? Have some imagination woman!!  Then I brought my limitless potential lanterns  home and promptly put a candle in each of them and left them like that for approximately 12 seasons.

This winter I finally realized I wasn’t exactly letting my lanterns live up to their true potential.  I filled them with copper lights and bristle brush trees for Christmas and they were positively glowing with pride.

Last week I dragged them out of the basement and decided if I could make them look good for around $10 I’d actually “Spring decorate” my porch.

I could. And I did.

And if you happen to have one of these lanterns and YOU don’t know what to do with it, you can do it too for around $7.  That’s what one bunch of Forsythia branches cost me.

Now, I did add some moss I had in the basement and a couple of birds nests that I have.

If you don’t have moss you can use a square of fake grass on the bottom, but you will need something to cover up whatever you  use as a water reservoir for the branches.  I used a very short mason jar and then just covered it up with the moss.

You can also use a water vial like this, but it’s a bit of a pain because you have to refill it daily.  I will not refill it daily.  I’ll refill it the first day and then forget all about it.

If you happen to have a birds nest either stick it on the floor of the lantern …


… or if it’s light enough, rest it in the Forsythia branches.

I’ve put these outside but obviously they can go inside too.  It never ceases to amaze me that I have to tell you these things.  Honestly.

I know. You’re upset because you don’t have a birds nest.  Don’t be. I honestly couldn’t decide on whether I wanted them in there or not. I want back and forth. They look just as good without them.

Don’t be alarmed by the fact that you have to really cut down the branches (you can TOTALLY use any flowering branches, Forsythia just seem to be the easiest to get around here).  Just hack off the stems and don’t worry about it.  I know.  People revere long stems and branches. We act like cutting them is similar to cutting an arm off a monkey. It isn’t.  Just cut them.



It’s still pretty dreary outside, and if history is any indication we’ll get one more dumping of snow this year, but that’s O.K., I’ll be snug inside with my delicious nutritious plate of air.

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A Little Spring Fling for Underloved Lanterns.


  1. Jacquie Gariano says:

    In Calif we have been having warmer weather but so much rain that it has been hard to plant. But so easy to pull weeds…LOL Love the lanterns, they are so cute. Keep up the good work making us feel good, inspire us to do tings and show us how. Love every blog.

  2. Helen says:

    Great minds – Also loving the yellow of the spring Forsythia cut from my back garden here in Georgia. The lanterns look beautiful though! Thanks for many interesting and varied posts over the years.

  3. Tanya says:

    Thanks for all of your work. Bringing us great ideas with your wonderful humor. I also read all the comments, actually look forward to them! Smart community- we love you Karen, we really really do. Thank you! 🎶

  4. Penny says:

    Totally envious now, Karen, of you and all the abve commenters. I have flowering branches (winter jasmine), branches with catkins (corkscrew hazel), and branches from a candyfloss tree (dunno what it’s called, but it has beautiful burgundy leaves with a tiny white tubular flower in the axil) but NO LANTERNS at all!
    If my bottom lip stuck out any further, you could use it as a bird bath……….

    • Karen says:

      LOL. Well … you could always buy a lantern if you find you just can’t stand the lip situation anymore. ~ karen!

  5. Kristi says:

    If you have time, please create a DIY for getting said bonnet on that neighborly raccoon.
    I’m stuffing MY lanterns chock full of clean air this spring!

  6. Laura Bee says:

    Ooh, lanterns aren’t just for candles?! Who knew? I have a huge forsythia in the back yard and a sad beat up lantern with a fake candle on the front porch. Every wind storm this past year it has blown over and a pane has smashed. I saw the last storm coming and just removed the last pane. I shall stuff it full of forsythia as soon as I remember how to force them.

  7. Marilyn Meagher says:

    Well you obviously were at the front of the line when imagination was handed out ..I was kind of near the front but I’m amazed at how many people don’t have an ounce of imagination! What a dreary life ! Your lanterns are beautiful !

  8. Vikki says:

    Yuum–I like my air medium-well. Now, gotta go cut flowering branches. I’m so done with Winter!

  9. Idaho Girl says:

    I’m having a “copy what Karen does week” because I just planted my basket of grass last weekend, and I’m going to totally copy the lantern idea. I usually welcome spring with a basket of primroses and moss. After they’re done blooming they get planted in a little micro climate by the front porch that gets no direct sun, where they continue to bloom most of the summer and come back the next spring. I have a tall lantern (with – gasp – a candle in it), and a blooming forsythia in the backyard, moss left over from the grass basket, and even a bird’s nest. It’ll look great on the front porch with my white polka dotted tall rain boots sitting next to it.
    P.S. I’m in zone 6 like you, but I actually had to mow my south facing backyard last week because it was growing so much already from our wet spring, and I’m gonna have to do it again this weekend.

  10. Lorie says:

    Your blog is very inspirational, thank you for your great ideas. Is the Dollar Store moss okey, looking for suggestions? Going to attempt small bird nest spring bulb planters out of grapevine, fingers crossed.

  11. PMMK says:

    Just wondering … will there be a post about how you took all the leftover stem cuttings and grew little baby forsythia plants out of them?

  12. PMMK says:

    Karen, you’ve again put the art into doing stuff. I have those very same stools, a forsythia out there somewhere under the endless snow, some bird nests that I harvested from the gazebo last year, a bag of moss and some not-nearly-as-interesting lanterns. But, where has my freakin’ imagination been? Your lanterns are cheery and elegant. A much needed hit of sunshine.

  13. Barb says:

    I was finally able to pull out the dead greenery from my planter last week. I refreshed it with new greenery, pastel bow, birch logs, and artificial forsythia, Easter eggs and other imitation spring flowers from Dollarama. It looks so fresh and makes me happy every time I enter the house. From the street you can’t tell that the flowers are not real.

  14. LeeAnne Bloye says:

    I have a forsythia bush but am terrified of ruining it’s looks by cutting the tips off of its branches. Is there some magic way to do this without making it grow funny?

    • PMMK says:

      Yes, Leeanne Bloye, there is a correct way to cut pieces off a forsythia. Google how to prune a forsythia. Cutting the tips off WILL most likely make it look funny. Cutting it the right way makes all the difference.

  15. Andrea says:

    I am not a fan of fake flowers but I use them in my outdoor lanterns. I bought one branch of nice fakes from the craft store and cut it down. Was enough to do all three of my lanterns. I alternate with pine cones I painted pink and white for fall and winter. They’ve Ben going strong for 3 years.

  16. Heather says:

    Charming! Really lovely!

  17. Suz. says:

    And Michael’s has the lanterns on sale!

  18. Kris says:

    As always…. funny, clever, and inspiring. Time to ditch the dead wreath and urn branches, thanks for the nudge!

  19. Elaine says:

    What a coincidence! Just yesterday, I was looking at my lanterns sitting on a shelf in my laundry cubbie gathering dust. I was thinking I really should do something with them as I haven’t used them for a while. Thank you, Karen, for the very pretty idea – I also like how you camouflaged the mason jars! Yesterday, Picone’s had nice pussy willow bunches for sale.

  20. Ruth says:

    Love the lantern look clever girl and love your blog! I have wonderful nests but can’t enjoy because kitty loves to tear them up. Bell jar or lantern is the answer. Happy Spring!

  21. Ann Brookens says:

    That porch does look more spring-y!
    My local Walmart is selling pots of mixed bulbs that are getting ready to bloom and I can’t walk past without thinking, “I need to buy one of those” and, “Is this winter EVER GOING TO END???”

    • Karen says:

      I think of all the winters, this is the one where we all deserve to go out and buy pots of spring bulbs at the end of it. Go buy some! ~ karen

  22. Sandra D says:

    There’s nothing blooming in Calgary yet… and my forsythia NEVER blooms (but never dies, either). It’s on the south side of the house, but it doesn’t bloom (I MAY have seen 2 yellow flowers on it one year). I guess I should move it, but I don’t know where to.

    Pussy willows would look good in the lanterns, too. I could go find some of them. And, put them in some large Mason jars.

    • PMMK says:

      Sandra D, Karen has mastered the art of doing stuff. I have mastered the art of doing stuff wrong.

      For years my flowering shrubs were misshapen and blah. Then I learned a few things. For instance, forsythia blooms on buds formed in the previous year. That means, if you prune in spring before bloom time or in fall when the growing season is over, you are removing all the flower buds so no flowers next year. Best time to prune most flowering shrubs is immediately after the blooms fade.

      It is worth googling how to prune forsythia. There is a good video on YouTube by U of Maine Extension. I know a bit about this stuff. I’m a stone’s throw from finishing a horticulture diploma at U of Guelph. It has been worth all the hours and every penny I have spent getting it.

    • Alena says:

      You can busy some faux forsythia branches, I happened to see very realistic looking ones this past weekend at HomeSense. I normally don’t buy faux flowers although I have an exception once or twice because they looked so good. Besides, I don’t think nobody would notice if they were inside a lantern.
      Don’t forget the pussy willows are the only source of nutrition for bees at this time of the year.

  23. Nicole says:

    I have a massive forsythia bush in the back yard, which I don’t think is blooming yet, but I think that you can force them, so I will try that. This is a great use of those bright yellow flowers!

    • Cheryl Young says:

      It’s very easy to force them! This makes me realize that I can get some branches off my mom-in-law’s tree this weekend (after I wade through the large snowbank that’s still surrounding it).

    • Karen says:

      You can absolutely force them Nicole. ~ karen!

  24. Theresa says:

    You are in rare form this evening, Karen. Rare form. 75% understated hilarity and 25% simple project instructions. Loved it!

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