I have a love/hate relationship with hybrid forsythia. This ever-popular twiggy shrub with brilliant yellow blooms is synonymous with spring. Yet many varieties offer little to gardeners beyond a short-lived golden rush of flowers.
So what’s not to like? In addition to a short season of interest, this shrub grows big—up to 8 feet high and wide if you let it be. And there’s the rub. Instead of planting forsythia far from the house so it can assume its natural, fountain-like habit, most folks plant it close to home and then hack it back to keep it small. The result can be atrocious—an odd, stubby blob instead of a graceful mass of elongated stems.
If you’re in the market for forsythia, buy a cultivar that suits the size of your property and extends the season of interest. A cultivar such as ‘Fiesta’ is small enough for a foundation planting; it produces lavish yellow spring flowers and has the added bonus of variegated leaves throughout the growing season.