Tuesday, April 20, 2010

How to Control an Ugly Forsythia

Ok, I know that some of you might get mad at me, but I'm going to speak the truth--Forsythia is an ugly shrub. Yes, I know that it's one of the first shrubs to bloom in the spring, that it's neon yellow flowers brigthen up the drab winter landscape, and that it tells you when to apply your lawn pre-emergent. But after all the yellow petals drop, you are left with is a generic shrub that is often forgotten in the landscape. Over the years a forsythia's branches can become a tangled mess, and most homeowners give it a hack job just to keep in line. Just like we did on this poor forsythia.

I get sad as I drive around neighborhoods in the spring I see many overgrown forsythias with only a handful on blossoms on the tips of the branches. It's such a travesty! Homeowners want to shape them into balls and circus animals, not realizing that forsythias bloom on two-year old wood.

So, here at the Ogden Botanical Gardens we experimented with how we pruned our forsythias last year. Last spring after they were done blooming I asked Vic to cut a few of them all the way down to ground. Now don't panic. There usually is a method to my madness. I remember hearing my old boss Peter Lassig tell me that forsythias can be cut down to the ground on a three year rotation and it will improve their blooming potential. So, after I reassured Vic that the forsythia would thank us later for cutting it back, we did just that. At first you are left with a few stumps, but as the summer progressed the forsythia put on about four feet of new growth. This spring I am happy to report that it is the best the forsythia has looked in a long time.

The yellow blossoms begin at the base of the shrub and go all the way to the tips. I'm impressed, and that saying a lot because I'm not a huge fan of forsythia. So if you're skeptical and are scared to cutting your ugly forsythia back, just come to gardens I will make you a believer too!

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