June 26, 2016


Green scene: forsythia

Special to The Gazette

Plant: Forsythia

Common names: Border forsythia, Golden Bells, Weeping forsythia

Latin name: Forsythia

Description: Tons of small yellow flowers take center stage in the early brisk springtime just as temperatures begin to bring an audience of song birds back to Ohio.

Last season’s twiggy branches wake up and dress themselves in tiny buds that begin to open in a riot of sunny yellow blossoms. Leaves are soft and green and appear only after flowers have left the stage. As showy blooms end, lush leaves practice their summer growth and little seeds perform their own act while coated in brown.

The bush grows quickly once planted and it puts on springtime shows for many years. Generally, the forsythia reaches heights of 8 to 10 feet tall and similar width.

Characteristics: Sometime in Ohio’s March or April, the forsythia bush will be brightly lit in lovely yellows in the landscape, lasting up to three weeks long, depending on frosty nights. Little star-shaped flowers are delicate with slightly pointed petals. At the base of the four petals, a soft green fabric holds the flower in place.

Each flower is about an inch long and wide. Lush leaves patiently wait to appear after blooms fade. Then, oval-shaped leaves, up to 5 inches long, dance in an opposite pattern to each other and remain on the plant during summer; they sometimes change colors to golden or red hues during autumn, then fall to the ground before wintertime, making the bush deciduous in nature.

For winter, pale brownish-yellow twigs show off sprawling features with slightly bumpy branches (raised lenticels).

Origin: The classic weeping forsythia is native to China and belongs to the Oleaceae or olive family.

Tips: Grow forsythia in full sun. It is happiest with well-draining, fertile and loamy soil, but will perform in other soils.
For fresh wood, cut old canes to the ground and allow to rejuvenate. Propagate with fresh green cuttings placed in sand or transplant smaller bushes. Generally, forsythias are hardy in USDA Zones 4-8.

Varieties: Forsythia flowers may appear in soft yellows to dark yellows to very bright yellows. “Fiesta” has variegated leaves of green with yellow centers. “Spectabilis” has bright yellow blooms, “Beatrix Farrand” blooms in golden yellow, “Lynwood” has paler yellow flowers, “Karl Sax” and “Arnold Dwarf” grow smaller. “Evergold” has yellow leaves all season.

Many types of Forsythia suspensa belong to the variety of sieboldii (weeping). The variety of fortunei grows upright and variety atrocaulus has pale yellow flowers. Forsythia x intermedia is the border forsythia, a hybrid which weeps and grows upright.

How to use: Enjoy blooms indoors or out. A favorite way for gardeners to enjoy forsythia blossoms is to bring them inside. Simply cut a few stems, even unopened flowers; they will open as they warm indoors.

To open blooms quickly, place in warm water and then in a warm room. For open blossoms, place in cold water and a cool room for a lasting arrangement. Use distilled water if on hand and change water every other day.

Enjoy a forsythia bush outdoors by planting in mass or allowing to spread freely. Once in bloom, the forsythia draws the eye to the landscape mainly because nothing else is in bloom. Prune the forsythia into a round, square or other shape, but be sure to do so immediately after it flowers. New blossoms develop on old twigs, so you may have less blooms the more you prune.

Forsythia makes a fantastic “screen” planting because it can be left to grow tall and wide, creating a yellow spring, green summer and fall landscape divider.