ANITA STONE: Spring Has Sprung in The Sandhills
All we have to do is look around and see that spring has sprung in the nicest of flowers that include tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, crocus -- and forsythia, best known for ushering in the season.
We usually ignore those plants that become old hat in the garden because we get used to them and simply depend on their yearly return. But it is always good to remind ourselves that regardless of how much we depend on our worthy "oldies," every plant, shrub, and tree depends on us to keep it alive and well. To garden efficiently, we should constantly keep up with the "old hats."
Forsythia is one of those "old hats." The plant has been recorded since the 18th century when Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus, who developed a system of plant classification, discovered and was the first to record forsythia on a trip to eastern Asia.
Linnaeus' findings clearly stated that forsythia will tolerate almost any soil, although it prefers fertile, loose, and well-drained areas. He also noted that the free stretching plant grows best in shrub borders and groupings.
Most forsythia canes grow upright at a quick speed and are long-lived. Border forsythia, for example, (Forsythia x intermedia) also known as golden bell, is one of the most recognized shrubs in the Southern states. Another likable shrub is the Beatrix Farrand. This forsythia exhibits golden flowers on an 8-10-foot tall shrub.
Some gardeners prefer Karl Sax, a short and bushy plant and the showy border forsythia called Spectabillis. Every forsythia demonstrates a show of luscious yellow color, ranging from light to golden to bright.
Resting in full or partial sun, the yearly flowers bloom on the previous year's wood. The yellow-colored blooms appear profuse as they open before the leaves emerge on the plant. The sunny show will last for two or three weeks unless killed by a sudden frost. Each bell-like flower measures from 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 inches long and wide and appears in clusters.
In the fall the dark green leaves may turn yellow or burgundy, but usually die off green.
If you prune forsythia, be careful of shearing the plant. Instead, be sure to thin the older branches at the base of the plant, thus allowing more vigorous branches to take over. If you want to make a formal hedge or reduce the size of the plant, you will detract from its habit of growth. Forsythia can also be cut back to ground level, and it will produce all new growth.
If you want to have a little fun, it is easy to force-bloom forsythia. You can cut the branches between January and March, some zones up through May, and bring the cuttings inside. Place them in water and flowers will open in about 10 days. The branches and flowers make a wonderful centerpiece when cut and placed in a vase.
You can also grow your own forsythia by simple stem cuttings. The method of simple layering is used to create a new plant. Simply bend the stem into the ground and cover part of it with soil, leaving approximately 6 to 12 inches exposed. Bend the tip into a vertical position and stake in place. The sharp bend will induce rooting. If rooting does not occur, wound the lower side branch or loosen the bark by twisting the stem.
Forsythia can become a focal point in your garden if you position it near fences, around a shed, or simply plant it between other colorful greenery for shape and texture. This is one plant that is sure to give years of life in the garden.
When you're perusing the garden and admiring the beauty of your landscape, make sure you pay close attention to the "oldies."
They are always better than most newbies.
Contact Raleigh freelance writer Anita Stone at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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