Forsythia are easy-to-grow, popular shrubs whose brilliant yellow flowers appear in spring, usually before the foliage. Some are especially suitable as wall shrubs, or for hedging or screening. F. suspensa, the weeping forsythia, is suitable for a north or east wall, where it can reach 6 m (20 ft). It has a number of varieties: F. suspensa fortunei is the tallest; F. suspensa sieboldii has thin, very pendulous shoots; F. suspensa atrocaulis has pale, lemon-yellow flowers and stems that are purple when young; ‘Nyman’s Variety’ is the most erect in its growth habit, and is late flowering. F. x intermedia, a hybrid of F. suspensa, is most suitable for hedging or screening. It grows to 2.4m (8 ft) or more, and carries masses of flowers. It is most commonly grown as the cultivar ‘Spectabilis’ but ‘Lynwood’ has larger flowers.

General care: Forsythias are very easy to grow and are happy with any soil and aspect. They are especially successful in town gardens, where their bright yellow flowers brighten a dull comer. Plant any time in the winter. If using F. x intermedia as hedging, space the young plants 45 cm (18 inches) apart; if for screening 75 cm (30 inches) apart. Prune F. suspensa and its varieties as soon as they have flowered, cutting back the laterals to leave a couple of buds on each. F. x intermedia grown as a hedge or screen should be clipped lightly only after flowering. Too-vigorous pruning of forsythia will reduce next year’s flowers.


Propagation: Cuttings 30 cm (12 inches) long of the current year’s growth, taken in the autumn and pushed into the soil, will be ready for transplanting a year later. F. suspensa and its varieties root themselves if the drooping branches reach the soil. If they don’t they can be encouraged to do so. These layered plants will be ready for separation a year later.

Pests and diseases: Birds eat the flower buds, especially in town gardens. Spray with a bird repellent if you can find an effective one; if not, net. Otherwise trouble-free.

These are among the first shrubs to make a massive display in early spring when covered in their yellow blossom, provided the buds have not been picked out in winter by birds. This can be a serious difficulty in country gardens, but in towns and near roads there is usually little trouble. All will grow in any reasonably fertile soil in sun or partial shade. They can be pruned immediately after flowering when the old flower stems can be cut out but strong young stems, particularly those from near the base, should be retained to flower the following year.

Recommended kinds are Forsythia intermedia and its varieties Lynwood and spectabilis, deep yellow, 6 to 8 ft., and F. suspensa with paler flowers and long arching stems which can be trained against a wall or fence. There is an attractive variety of this named atrocaulis with purplish-black young stems.


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