Forsythia seems like it's been around forever; but in fact, it didn't arrive in the South until around 1900. That it spread so quickly to so many gardens is due to a trio of factors. First, for most people this shrub grows easier than mildew. Second, rooting it takes no brains at all. Just layer, anchor or weigh down, a lower branch to the ground or, simpler yet, cut off a branch and stick it into moist earth. Third, forsythia, often called yellow bells, is the herald of spring. It blooms with the year's first mild weather. Cut branches that are taken indoors bloom as early as January.
Now you would think something so popular would earn great reverence and respect, but not so. All over the South, otherwise gentle, rational people regularly seize their hedge-trimmers and butcher this graceful shrub into balls, squares, trapezoids, and other bizarre, unnatural shapes. They forget that an innocent-looking, one-gallon plant can grow 8 feet tall and wide in the time it takes to fetch the morning paper. So they plant it in all the wrong places--under low windows, beside the steps, and at the very edge of the driveway. Butchery soon commences, ruining the next spring's bloom.
This heinous practice must end. To look its best, forsythia needs lots of elbowroom. So let it blanket a hillside; cascade over a wall; or form a billowing, unclipped hedge. If your garden is too cramped for this, try one of the new, compact selections that seldom need pruning. 'Minigold' grows 4 to 5 feet tall and wide, while 'Gold Tide' grows a mere 20 inches tall and 4 feet wide. Both feature showy, bright yellow flowers. Please stop the madness of forsythia butchery. Tell your neighbors to stop it, too. Then maybe by the time another century passes, we'll have one thing we can count on. Forsythia everywhere will be beautiful and golden.
Shirley Watson, Smith County Master Gardener
Texas AgriLife Extension Service