Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day: Forsythiosis

Mary's forsythia hedge

Now is as good a time as any to talk about forsythia. 

If you live in zone 7, it’s just popped out in all its tacky gold glory, and is either splaying all over the place in a spectacular tangle or — more likely — it was sheared into a giant egg shape in the fall by some doofus (possibly your spouse) so now it can’t fully express its brazen forsythiosity. 

You have to be careful pruning these things.  Forsythias are like Charo, or maybe Liberace.  You wouldn’t put an oxford shirt on Liberace and take him to church.  No, you let him get out there and be his fabulous self,  just like you should let your forsythias get a little bit jiggy with it, too.

Some Forsythia Guidelines:

1. Accept that they’re a one season shrub and get to a place where you’re okay with this.

2. Put your forsythia in a place where it will be backlit by the sun.  At all times.  Because this is really the only way to catapult their flowers from “sort of pretty” to “insanely vibrant and glorious!!  OMG!!!”

3. Don’t plant just one.  Instead, plant a “drift” of between seventeen and one thousand of them.  I didn’t truly appreciate forsythias until a visit one April to Dumbarton Oaks.  Walking up a hill from the Lover’s Lane pool, I suddenly encountered the Forsythia Dell – an acre of (seemingly) untamed forsythias glowing in the spring sun.  Wow.  So thiiiiiiiis is what they’re supposed to look like, I thought.

Comments

  1. Lani Wilkinson says:

    Glorious, wonderful, delightful, beautiful shrubs! Bears to take out (only because someone may have planted it in the wrong place), but to have a yard without a forsythia? Never! It’s one of the true signs of spring in all its glory! Can never have enough!

  2. Not my shrub, but I agree, if you’re going to have forsythia, DO NOT PRUNE OR SHAPE IT AT ALL. Let it be entirely itself, preferably drooping (a little or, better, a lot). Limit any pruning to removing old canes at the base. My niece in Mississippi had a large one she let go; it almost converted me. And it’s foliage turned a lovely bronze-purple in fall.

    • Oh come on, James…I think you should do a nice forsythia hedge all around the perimeter of your new Brooklyn garden. I think the sulfur yellow blooms would really “pop” against your newly painted fence. Ha!

  3. haha – Great advice to let forsythias ‘get jiggy with it’! I don’t have any forsythias, because I was never taken by them when they weren’t blooming, but I guess if someone had the room for 17 to 1,000 of them, they could be breathtaking when all in bloom.

  4. yay, let’s hear it for Forsythias! Here in the UK gardeners can be very snobby about them, but surely we should welcome their optimism at a time when the rest of the garden is only just thinking about coming back to life? what’s more, you can cut a few branches when the buds are starting to fatten up, bring them indoors, and they will flower happily for you a few weeks ahead of the outside display. And, yes, they are boring in the Summer and Winter, but here at least the leaves take on a gorgeous palette of yellows, reds and purples in the Autumn (sorry, fall), so I give them 2 seasons rather than one!

    • Rose, thanks for your comments. I always mean to bring in some branches, and I never have…will try that next year! As much as I love creative & modern planting design, sometimes I just love these old-fashioned shrubs like forsythias and lilacs, etc. I think it might be that I’m just getting old….

  5. I have to celebrate your new word “forsithiosity” — and I will make an effort to use it in casual conversation in hopes that it ends up in the next Webster’s. Brilliant.

  6. I think it was a state law that every house in Virginia built between 1960 and 1990 must have at least one or more Forsythia, Bradford Pear, Crepe Myrtle, azalea, and boxwood. ;) If not, it at least appears to be. I still have some Forsythia lurking about courtesy of the previous homeowners, and they do look lovely backlit by the sun in the morning.

    • You are so right, Julie! Our house was built in 82 and it has all of those plants in spades — except for the Bradford Pear, thank goodness!

    • Our house came with the crepe myrtle and azaleas, and I had to put in my own forythia and boxwood. I grew up with them, how could I not? But you can keep the bradford pear

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