Unhappy With Forsythias In Front Of House

blondelle(NE)June 19, 2006

My other shrubs are nicely manicured and shaped but there were some bare spots in the front. The gardener suggested forsythia. I loved the flowers but hate the wild, unkempt look of the plants. They are mostly just long branches. I thought it was more of a shrub. They were recently put in. I also read that you can't really shape them or they will just bloom at their tops.

Do these fill out, and get more smaller branches. How long do they usually bloom for, They are tall, but spindly. I would think if they got that tall they would have also had more branching. I didn't know you can't shape them. I would like the tops squared off like my other shrubs.

Do gardeners take something out and replace it if you're unhappy with something? I'm also annoyed that he put in 36 tiny impatien plants late in the season 2 days ago, and charged me $75. Should two 5' foot forsythias cost $175 to put in? This is in Brooklyn, NY. Thanks!

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(Do gardeners take something out and replace it if you're unhappy with something?) Absolutely. Forsythias are wonderful shrubs, but do not prune them into little meatballs and squares, please. It destroys their character. They are more suited to informal designs. Your forsythia will eventually develop multiple arching branches and fill out, but from what you've described, it is the wrong plant for you. Dig it up and replace.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2006 at 9:27AM
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I agree. These are totally the wrong plant for you. Sheared, squared off, they look absolutely ridiculous. Left to their own wild ways with gentle pruning, they will look completely out of place. Remove them and give the "gardener" the boot. He/she clearly has no idea what your needs are. If he/she suggested you can shear the forsythia for your purposes he/she is a nincompoop.

(BTW, I don't think it is too late to put in impatiens.)


    Bookmark   June 19, 2006 at 9:36AM
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We have a couple of those "wild, unkempt" forsythias in the back yard and they put on a dazzling show of bloom every spring with next to no pruning. Since other shrubs also reach their full potential with scant pruning, you might want to ask yourself what else you're missing by closely manicuring and shaping the plants in your yard.*

The prices you quote are probably not out of line for buying and installing plants in NYC. Still, I'd bet you could find decently-sized impatiens at a local nursery for less than half the $75 you were charged and plant them yourself in 30 minutes or so. In the case of annuals, ou're paying the heavy freight for a minimal amount of convenience.

*there are dwarf forsythias on the market, but you probably would still find them to be unruly.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2006 at 10:01AM
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rhoda_dendron(z6 Toronto Cana)

Forsythia are a beautiful shrub in the spring garden, but....

They can get 10 feet tall and wide. They will need to have old branches removed at the base every few years to maintain the loose arching shape which is so attractive. If you prune this shape into a "box", you will be pruning away the beauty of the plant.

The only plant/shrub that I can think of that looks its best pruned into a box would be a boxwood. But even boxwood need other shrubs with different forms (such as arching or rounded) for interest. There are many dwarf shrubs available which look very nice next to homes. I like dwarf deutzia (white arching flowered branches), or perhaps gold flame or gold mound spirea (purple flowers on bright chartreuse branches)which can and should be sheared after blooming in the summer. This shearing will promote new flowers and leaves and will keep the shrub in the desired shape and size. There is also a very nice reddish leaf color on these spireas in the spring, so they have many seasons of interest if the color works for you.

The forsythia could be moved to the outer perimeter of your garden where it has room to spread.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2006 at 2:04PM
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Id take 'em out, but think about moving them. I have two, informally espalliered,sort of woven against a 6ft chain link fence. The long branches flatten agains the mesh, with a few tucks here and there, and the leaf branchlets fill out, to make a soft, green screen. a couple people initially thought it would look contorted and unnatural, but when they see it, since its had a few years to naturalize to a lovely soft green screen they are suprised. By the way, these propagate easily by sticking twigs in moist dirt and keeping them dampish till roots form, like in an old gallon pot in a saucer tucked away some where.I have even kept one smallish by leaving it in the little pot, so I could move it in and out if I wanted to. Id get my dimes worth by propigating those suckers and gifting them to every body I know. :) you may be suprised how nice they look some place else, and if they just wont work for you, maybe you could trade them with a gardener in your area that wants them? That way you feel good ripping them out. Good Luck :) i also agree that they dont look good "trimmed " into shapes

    Bookmark   June 19, 2006 at 2:52PM
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prairie_love(z3/4 ND)

Do gardeners take something out and replace it if you're unhappy with something?

Did you approve the plan for him to put these in? If so, why should he take them out at his expense? Did you approve a plan for 36 impatiens for $75? It is unclear whether this "gardener" is simply doing things and then charging you or if you and he worked out a plan and now you don't like the way it looks.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2006 at 4:26PM
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Thanks everyone for your input. I had thought the forsythias were more bush like rather than these long branches. I guess they will become like that over time. He had suggested them. I guess I had just seen photos of mature plants and a few were shaped. I tend to like everything rounded or flat across the top. I guess if you prune it somewhat it would be OK, without branches going in every which way. I think I will have him move two of them to the side of the house where I had one before, and ask him to replace the other two if he will.

I saw a shrub I thought was forsythia in front of another house. It turned out to be just a yellow and green leaf. I think I will have him place two of those instead. It's a similar yellow effect, and can be nicely shaped.

BTW, how long does a forsythia remain in bloom? Can anyone also suggest a nice 12" or under perennial flowering bedding plant that will stay in bloom for 2-3 months for NY.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2006 at 7:49PM
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When you live in New England and have endured long months of winter you come to love the bright yellow of Forsythia. "Common", yeah! so are the fuschia rhodos. and Hydrangea paniculata, lilacs... but they're bullet-proof. And that's what I love about each and every one of them.

Forsythia, Spirea, Weigela all share the same vase-like shape. They require regular pruning to keep them healthy and guarantee the flowers you look forward to every spring.

Forsythia is too majestic to be sheared into "obedience"... it doesn't like it! and it looks sh-tty, frankly. Off by themselves at the edge of a yard, maintained every so often they are sumptuous. But they are at their best when their arching, graceful character is left to do its thing.

Get rid of them... relocate them to a far corner of your property where sun and marginal soil will offer them sanctuary.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2006 at 8:33PM
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vicki_ca(Sunset 14, US9)

"I tend to like everything rounded or flat across the top."

If that's the case, Forsythia is not for you. Forsythia's growth habit is to send out long stems going every which direction. Forsythia blooms on last year's new growth. If you cut off those long unruly branches, you will be sacrificing the flowers you would normally see the following spring. Forsythias that are pruned into flat tops or round balls look ridiculous, in my humble opinion.

It sounds like you need to communicate more clearly with your gardener about what you expect from your plants. Google is your friend.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2006 at 8:41PM
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Yes, there is nothing like the flush of the forsythia in the spring! I have one on the side of my house where it shades my daughter's window. In the spring, her room is flooded with bright yellow light as the sun shines through it! It makes the spring mornings delightful.

But as I said there is almost nothing as pathetic as the sight of a sheared forsythia. Everyone here agrees. BTW, it will be in bloom for about six weeks or so. Next spring as winter is ending look for its bright yellow everywhere. It will be the only thing blooming.

As to the perennial under 12 inches. There are about three hundred. What type of soil? What's the sun situation? Do you want a mix or a mass of one thing? Are you planning on putting them with something else? Jump over to the very active perennial forum on this website, supply that info and you will get many suggestions.

Patty, who agrees that google (and google images) will be a big help to you.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2006 at 6:34AM
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mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)

Forsythias, as has been mentioned, are not "neat and tidy" bushes. I don't know enough about your zone to make specific suggestions...there are some rhodedendron cultivars that maintain a rounded shape.

I don't know of ANY perennial that will stay in constant bloom for 2-3 months at a time in NY. I don't know any that will do that in NC. What you are describing is an annual. Constant bloom--and then done at frost. It isn't too late to plant any annual--and that includes impatiens. Feed them and they will grow. If you like plants that are flat on top--and want a lot of color--zinnias might work for you. They are a classic bedding plant. They do require some maintenance--and do best with a little dead-heading. Another classic choice would be geraniums--which also do best with regular dead-heading. How much hands on work do you want to do?

Now, there are probably a number of perennial plants for your zone that will cycle through bloom and rest stages...or have a long bloom period that can be paired with another perennial to pick up as the first fades...ask your gardener for their latin names, and google them. Then you will know if they are the sort of tidy plants you seem to prefer. But you will be doing both of you a favor if your gardener can come up with some sort of list that YOU can then research. I am not very familiar with your area, so hesitate to suggest specific perennials. (Which are much fussier than annuals, as they have to survive winters.)


    Bookmark   June 20, 2006 at 9:16AM
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