Plant Profile: Fabulous Forsythias

“Nature’s first green is gold” ~Robert Frost, ‘Nothing Gold Can Stay’

In Maine, nature’s first golden green comes in the form of Forsythia. Bright yellow, cheery blooms open just as the last dirty piles of snow have melted away. They do not last long, soon to be replaced by fresh green leaves, often times touched by a late frost, to be taken before their time.

A small group of plants, related to the olive family, and they are mostly native to Asia. There are both upright and weeping forms, all with blossoms in various shades of yellow. Forsythias like full sun to light shade (but bloom best in full sun), and can tolerate a wide variety of soil conditions. A moist, well drained soil rich in organic matter is best for growing your favorite Forsythia.

Several named varieties exist, though several of these will not bloom in Maine. Our cold winters often times will kill off the flower buds, which are set in the fall. Forsythia x intermedia varieties such as ‘Northern Gold’ and ‘Northern Sunrise’ are some of the hardier varieties, reliably blooming as far north as Zone 3.

Though they are incredibly tolerant of just about anything the home gardener will do to them, such as pruning them into a flat-topped hedge, Forsythia’s natural, airy, open habit is best left undisturbed. Plants can be tamed by removing the largest canes right at the base of the shrub, which will promote new bottom shoot growth, and keep the overall height of the plant down to a manageable level.