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The brilliant golden flowers of forsythia herald the arrival of spring and bring the promise of yet another new gardening season. There's a special reassuring quality about seeing the first flowers of the year – the certain knowledge that the dreary winter weather will soon be behind us and the excitement of another new season looms. Along with the swelling of buds, the bursting forth of growth, and gaiety of massed blooms comes the magical feeling that spring is here. It’s the time when the doldrums of cabin fever ease, gardeners’ hearts beat a little faster, and green thumbs positively begin to twitch!
Since yellow is the color of sunshine, it's not surprising that the warming, cheering effect of bright yellow flowers brings gladness to our hearts. This sizzling, attention getting, color makes us feel warm and happy, perking up weary spirits. No wonder forsythia bushes and yellow daffodils are so popular. Planted by the million, they energize our lifeless, early spring landscape and sweep away the dullness of gray winter skies.
Thanks to botanists, plant breeders, and fellow gardeners, there's a surprisingly wide selection of forsythia to choose from. They range from the ubiquitous Forsythia ‘Lynwood’, with its 8 foot tall bushes of showy, brilliant, golden-yellow blooms, to the dwarf growing F. ‘Goldilocks’ (2-3 feet) and ‘Gold Tide’ (18 inches). The dwarf, spreading forms are excellent for smaller gardens, where space is at a premium. Some flower a little later, lengthening the bloom period by a couple of weeks. There's even a few (Forsythia ‘Fiesta’ and ‘Golden Times’) that have golden variegated leaves to extend the color period well beyond the normal spring period into summer.
Of all the Forsythia we offer, however, the most unusual and unique must be Forsythia ‘Kumson’. While having the familiar, golden-yellow flowers in early spring, it leafs out to reveal highly unusual, variegated leaves – an intricate network of decorative veins in the leaves that is extremely rare in nature and incredibly attractive. Since this leaf color lasts throughout the entire growing season, it takes the ornamental value of forsythias into a whole new season long era of color - from the emergence of flower buds in early spring, through the luxuriant growth of summer, to the arrival of frosts in late autumn.
Forsythias are well known for their tenacious reliability. These “easy keepers” are easy to grow and care for and Forsythia ‘Kumson’ is no exception. Like its peers, it tolerates a wide variety of soils and situations and, once established, is drought tolerant. It can thrive for years with minimal attention. It will grow in sun, but is best in a partially shaded to shady location.
As established plants mature, it is a good idea to do some pruning. We suggest you do this immediately after flowering, cutting out about half to a third of the older shoots. This will stimulate new growth and extra leaf color. The arching shoots will then over-winter to carry flowers the following spring.
Personally, I am so fond of the foliage effect I don't really care about the flowering, so I prune my plants several times during the growing season, encouraging lots of new growth and magnificent leaf color.
The leaf pattern is most pronounced on young growth, and we have noticed that it is especially good in early autumn. If you are like me, and don't really care so much for the flowers, think about giving your plants a strong prune in mid-summer. This will produce an abundance of amazingly decorative, “knocks your socks off” color that will make your garden the talk of the neighborhood.
Forsythia ‘Kumson’ is a selection of the Greenstem Forsythia (Forsythia viridissima var. Koreana). Tim Wood, of Spring Meadow Nurseries (Grand Haven, MN), discovered it while visiting Kwan-gnu-ng Arboretum and Sungkyunkwan University in Korea. He went there in August 1999 to look at the collections of Hibiscus syriacus, the national flower of Korea (popularly known here as Rose of Sharon or Althea). Spring Meadow is well known for their innovative plant introductions. They were searching for new forms of the shrubby Hibiscus, so the collection at the Botanical Garden of Sungkyunkwan University, where they grow over 250 different varieties, was an important stop. But the surprise was the striking foliage of this unusual forsythia.
Dr. Shim Kyong-ku, the director of the botanic garden and professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture at the university, kindly sent propagation material to Spring Meadow, where the initial plants were produced for evaluation and extended study. Tim says that they "viewed it first as a novelty, then as visitors were drawn to it and remarked upon the special leaf markings", they realized that this was indeed a plant with real potential, so they put it into their propagation schedule.
We obtained our first plants in the summer of 2002. Since then our trials indicate that this is certainly an excellent plant with considerable merit. It is hardy to Zone 5; grows to about 4-6 feet tall; doesn't seem to be affected by any serious pests or diseases; and, in our experience, is not bothered by deer browsing.
It has multiple uses, just like other forsythias. It is a fabulous choice for foundation planting; makes a great specimen in beds and borders; can be used as a screen or informal hedge; or massed in woodland settings. The flowers can be forced for very early season arrangements. Later on, the dramatic foliage looks fantastic in summer or early autumn floral displays.
With the arrival of this thrilling new variety comes a whole new approach to getting season long color from forsythia. So think about planting Forsythia ‘Kumson’ – and treasure the delights of this fabulous shrub all the way through the whole growing season.
Until next time, remember.... Enjoy your gardening. It's good for you!