Floreat Forsythia? OK, this is not something which I thought I would find myself saying. I mean, Forsythia! It is not a sexy plant after all!



Forsythia Hill at Dumbarton Oaks, USA.

But as time goes on I appreciate shrubs more, the wonder of spring more and more, and so the glory of spring flowering shrubs especially. I am also a lot less dismissive of the common. However, some shrubs, such as Forsythia, come with a bit of a handicap, which you have to get past to appreciate them for what they actually are.

Brits of my grandparent’s generation used to say of American soldiers during World War II ‘overpaid, oversexed and over here.’ They had seen too much of them, they were in their faces and they didn’t like some of their habits!

The same could be said of Forsythia.

 The sex is quite definitely an issue, because some of the worst excesses of Forsythia have come from a cross between suspensa and viridissima. At some point bigger and brighter seemed to be the way to go. This methodology has produced the likes of ‘Lynwood’, ‘Arnold Giant’ and ‘Spectabilis.’

The names alone almost say it. A suburban mass of clotted eggy yellow. As we crawl out of winter hibernation, blinking in the unaccustomed brightness of the Spring light, this is not exactly a colour which we find very sympathetic.

Cash has also been involved since they are easy to propagate and to grow. So a safe reliable product to sell and to buy. And therefore overused, and seen everywhere. Many specimens are also poorly sited. Shoved into too small a space, they are routinely and circumferentially pruned to create a dense twiggy mass. The poor things then try their best to please and get despised. Like any purchase there needs to be some selection and taste applied.

If we returned to the original species, before the hype, I like giraldiana and suspensa. Both have soft yellow flowers. Giraldiana flowers in late February and suspensa in late March and early April. So having both in different places gives you a good long range of blossom. Siting is also important. I like to grow both with a dark evergreen background, preferably holly or yew, which really shows off the flower:


But both are graceful and loose in habit as opposed to having loose habits! So site them with enough space around them so that that they looked relaxed. This specimen here has been crammed up against a yew hedge, so that it has to be viciously pruned and the hedge is suffering. It should really be removed. For me they work best in the open in association with grass and spring bulbs.

As to long term care, like many shrubs, air space is important, both visually and culturally. This allows good blossom display and ensures a good renewal of flowering wood from below. So prune after flowering to an outward facing bud and take the opportunity to remove some old wood. And then feed.

 Time to rehabilitate the Forsythia?

 As for the Americans over here during the war……as I recall, our war effort would have starved were it not for the convoys and the cash from the States. And fighting wise they were the proverbial cavalry!

 Floreat Forsythia AND the Special Relationship!