by Cass Turnbull
I guess we all cut our pruner's teeth on forsythias. Like
many plants in the “cane-grower” category, these shrubs are planted
mostly for their flowers, not for their form. They do have
a reasonably nice fall coloring which many people tend to
forget. The yellow blooms on forsythias come out in February
or March, and they flower before their leaves emerge. After the
long drab, gray winter, the sight of these bright yellow explosions
lifts our spirits. I like to prune forsythias just before
they bloom (and bring some branches in to force in a vase of
water). Because of it, I get a lot of people asking, “Isn't
the right time to prune just after blooming?” Well, no, not
unless you are cutting a forsythia to the ground or shearing
it (ick). More on timing later.
MISTAKES PEOPLE MAKE:
The other thing people never seem to grasp is that all plants,
including forsythias have a height and width that is genetically
programmed into them, and pruning really can't keep them under a
certain size (for any reasonable time). That size for most forsythias
is seven to ten feet tall and about as wide. When you buy a plant
at the nursery, it's just a fraction of it's adult size.
You imagine the shrub will grow to about 5' tall and 4' wide and put
it in a place that such a shrub would fit. Eventually, quite soon in
fact, it doesn't. Fit that is.