Forsythia is first to welcome you to springThe spring season always seems to heighten our anticipation for spring flowers and color. The appearance of blooms in shades of red, yellow, orange, pink, purple and white are very alluring to all of us after a gray, colorless winter. Of all the colors that first appear, it is the yellow shades that seem to grab our attention the most.
By: John Zvirovski, The Jamestown Sun
The spring season always seems to heighten our anticipation for spring flowers and color. The appearance of blooms in shades of red, yellow, orange, pink, purple and white are very alluring to all of us after a gray, colorless winter. Of all the colors that first appear, it is the yellow shades that seem to grab our attention the most. I don’t know if it is because that color seems to be fluorescent to our senses or because it is the color of sunshine. Whether it is the tulips, the euphorbia or the exquisite nodding heads of the daffodils, they always make me smile when I see them in the stark landscape during this time of year.
Few trees and bushes in our region bloom in shades of yellow, but there are a few that make their presence known. Usually it’s the golden flowers of the potentilla that bloom throughout the summer and fall, the occasional yellow primrose lilac that is not very common around here or the golden lights azalea.
One species that stands out among all others, when it comes to yellow flowers, is that of the forsythia. The forsythia is a bush that responds to spring just as impatiently as the rest of us. As soon as the temperatures warm and the sap starts to flow, this shrub bursts into bloom long before the leaves appear.
The bright yellow flowers bloom in the shape of four-petal bells that cling tightly to the thick branches. The flowers hold their heads high during warm, sunny days and droop in cool, rainy weather to protect their reproductive organs. Nature has a way of protecting itself through beautiful and adverse conditions for its sheer survival.
Depending on the variety chosen, these shrubs can be planted singly as a specimen, in mass plantings for a bigger effect, or in hedgerows for dual purposes. All will provide an illuminating glow in early spring, sometimes even before all the snow has melted. Forsythia also look terrific in front of an evergreen backdrop, which really seems to make the blooms radiate their brilliance.
For the most part, forsythias can grow to be quite a large shrub, but with time, newer varieties of various sizes have been developed. They prefer full sunlight to part shade in a well-drained soil with good organic matter. They can even grow well in highly alkaline soils, but benefit from spring fertilizers high in phosphorous to promote bright blooms. It’s low susceptibility to any diseases or pests are other great factors associated with this species.
If you have a location with large spaces, try planting the meadowlark forsythia. This is very hardy for our area as it is rated a Zone 3, and can reach 8 to 10 feet in height. For something a bit shorter, one can plant the northern gold forsythia, which reaches 6 to 8 feet and is also quite hardy for our region. The New Hampshire gold and sunrise varieties are zones 3 and 4, respectively, and reach medium sizes of 4 to 5 feet in height. These two are probably more adaptable to most of our yard restrictions for space. For something lower, seek out the gold tide or citrus swizzle, which only reach heights of 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 feet and spread to about 4 feet wide. These two are Zone 4, but typically would be completely covered by snow in our area to keep it safe in the landscape during winter.
Forsythias are very adaptable in many ways and are quite easy to grow. After their flowers have faded, they will form small seed capsules that eventually drop. Beginning a new bush can begin by planting these seeds that fall to the ground. An easier way to start a new plant is to make 6-inch branch cuttings from one year-old wood and stick them into a moist potting mix. They will take root within two to four weeks and can be planted into the ground come fall, while dormant, for best results. Many times, when a branch sags to the ground, it readily roots when in contact with the soil for any period of time.
If you are like me, it is always nice to have fresh flowers in the house from time to time. Cut the branches of the forsythia right before bloom and mix them in a vase with some stems of pussywillow, which have now budded, to make a wonderful bouquet with some fresh cut tulips or daffodils. Within days your forsythia branches will be in bloom to enjoy for nearly a week.
Since these bushes can grow easily up to 2 feet or more a year, it is best to keep them trimmed to a desired height to promote a thicker shrub and to keep them from getting spindly. Since this shrub only blooms on one year-old wood, prune them right after they have finished blooming, so the new wood can set flower buds for the following year.
If you have the time, take a walk around town this week and see if you notice any bushes covered in yellow blooms. If you see one, it is definitely a forsythia. It will be letting you know that spring has arrived and that it is not waiting any longer to get you hooked into the new growing season. Its yellow glow will be sure to make you smile and change the way you look at things, if even for just a day.