As much as I long for spring, there is one sight I am dreading. It’s the clipped hedges that were once beautiful spring-flowering shrubs, but now have become boxy travesties of their natural selves, dotted here and there with a few flowers that have managed to survive the pruning frenzy. The worst offenders are the over-pruned forsythias. These are really noticeable, because the yellow of forsythia is among the first signs of spring in Western New York. It should be a wild blaze of yellow, not a tortured row of bare branches dotted with yellow.
Here’s a quote from my cooperative extension site:
Hedging destroys the natural beauty of the shrub and limits the number of blooms to a thin mantle of blooms on the sheared surface. The most beautiful shrubs have blooms throughout the plant, up and down the stem.
Right. That’s what I’m saying. I’m no pruning expert, but there are plenty out there and a survey of them indicates that the best time to prune forsythia is after it blooms. And here are a couple quotes from a guy we all respect, Michael Dirr: “Forsythia was not made for extensive pruning,” and “does not belong in foundation plantings.” Foundation planting forsythias are generally the ones you’ll see chopped down into boxes or balls.
Full disclosure: I don’t have a forsythia. They require a lot of sun and are the type of one-hit wonders I simply can’t afford to give space to. But I love enjoying the forsythias of other gardeners and many that I see along country roads: big, sprawling yellow explosions, all. Just a few weeks more …