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Forsythia (Flowers)

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      27.01.2011 13:02
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      Worth a second look because I think, it's gorgeous.

      Forsythia is a very frequently-planted garden shrub, found ubiquitously in suburban gardens up and down the country. In a case of what's undoubtedly familiarity breeding contempt it doesn't seem to feature very highly on anyone's list of favourite garden plants: whenever anyone mentions it at all it tends to be in a rather sniffy manner - I remember reading a gardening article earlier this year in which someone talked about 'wall to wall Forsythia bushes' in a very condescending tone (which is I suppose what you get for picking up a weekend version of the 'Guardian'). Anyway, this generally negative media attitude towards the plant is a shame because it's easy to grow, brightly coloured, attractively shaped (if you leave it alone), tolerant of all sorts of soil and light conditions and seems to be generally problem-free.

      Forsythia's downfall may be related to the fact that it can readily be trimmed into hedge-shapes - and hence as it's also a quick-growing plant that needs pruning if you want to 'keep it in check' it often is used as part of a garden hedge. To cut Forsythia into a boxy cube however is in my opinion to lose about 50% of its appeal, because left in a 'natural' shape it takes the form of a gently spreading, upright shrub with an almost willowy aspect, gained from its thin and delicate, straight, widely-spaced stems.

      The other 50% of Forsythia's attractiveness comes - if you happen to like things that are bright yellow - from its flowers in spring. These burst forth early in the year, around the time the first garden bulbs are thinking of coming out, and cover the plant with a profusion of sunflower-yellow blossom. The flowers are at their best at the end of winter and add some very welcome colour and interest to the garden at an otherwise very dreary time of year. Then the pleasant, apple-green leaves come out properly and once the flowers have fallen, Forsythia retreats into the background once again, becoming much like any another garden shrub.

      I was having some trouble getting anything to grow in an area of the garden I'd de-gravelled, where the soil quality subsequently was very, very poor indeed (about two inches of stony top-soil over sticky lumps of clay). I put a small Forsythia from the garden centre - about two feet high when I bought it - in at the edge of this plot and it seems to be growing very well - it's about four or five feet tall now, two years on and as I haven't pruned it, has a very attractive slightly spreading / upright shape. It's very heartening to see something growing so actively in this neglected plot and I hope that with its root system spreading underground, it'll even help condition the soil (by breaking it up) in this part of the garden. The Forsythia I got was severely reduced in a sale - down to £2 from an RRP of approx. £8 - £12 but as these are long-lived shrubs they're well worth the money.

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