Sophora and forsythia are two shrubs, from different parts of the world that are filling the garden with colour at this time of the year. Forsythia is finishing off flowering and sophora is starting to flower about a month later than other years.
Forsythia is a deciduous, spring flowering shrub grown for its profusion of yellow flowers that appear before the leaves emerge. Most species of forsythia come from the Far East, like China. In Germany the Chinese species were cross-pollinated to produce a new hybrid called Forsythia x intermedia ‘Spectabilis’ that has more spectacular flowers. This hybrid produced a new sport at Slieve Donard Nursery in 1946, this cultivar is called Forsythia x intermedia ‘Lynwood’.
Forsythias can be grown as a hedge or planted as individual specimens. The taller varieties are easily trained on a wall as climbers. Although forsythias are not fussy about their growing conditions, they perform best in well-drained soil. Forsythias flower on the previous year’s growth so pruning should be done immediately after the flowers have faded. Each year prune back about a quarter of the old stems to within a few inches of the ground. A forsythia that is drastically overgrown from years of neglect may stop flowering. In this case cut the entire plant down to ground level. It may take a few years before it flowers again but it will come back better than ever.
Branches with buds on them will open rapidly when brought indoors and make a nice arrangement with daffodils. The individual flowers have four petals and will last for about four weeks.
Sophora is a member of a group of tender and hardy trees and shrubs that may be deciduous or evergreen. Sophora microphylla ‘Goldilocks’ is a tropical looking plant from New Zealand that is covered with clusters of yellow flowers at this time of the year. Although tender looking, this evergreen with its elegant ferny foliage, is totally hardy. The flowers appear in March and can last until May if there is no wind to blow them away. It is a large tree that can grow up to 25 feet tall. It can be pruned to keep the plant in shape and to control its size. Pruning should be carried out immediately after flowering because the flowers appear on the previous year’s stems. This will encourage new shoots that will flower the following spring. It will grow in most garden soils but avoid excessively wet soils. It needs plenty of sun, it flowers very well after a long hot summer. Sophora japonica (Japanese pagoda tree) is a deciduous tree from China that can grow up to 60 feet tall. It produces white flowers in late summer and early autumn when the tree is 10 to 15 years old. Sophora prostrata ‘Little Baby’ is a small evergreen shrub that grows about seven feet tall. The branches are twiggy, growing in a zig-zag fashion that turn a beautiful brown colour in the autumn. It has very small leaves and produces small yellow flowers in spring. Some sophoras may be frost tender and can be trained into a climber against a south or south-west facing wall.
Jobs for the week
Weeds are growing fast at this time of the year so control them by hoeing, by hand or by weedkiller if you have a lot of them. Use Roundup on weeds such as bindweed, thistles, dandelions and couchgrass. Remove any grass or weeds growing around the base of trees or hedges. The growth rate of trees is reduced from competition with the grass.
Plant dahlias and gladiolus in the garden where they are to flower. The danger of frost will be over by the time they appear.
Lawns will need to be cut regularly and a spring fertiliser applied. The edges of the lawns will need to be remade. This is a good month to sow a new lawn, the soil is warm enough for grass seeds to germinate quickly. Check climbers growing on walls and tie in any loose stems to the support wires.