With a poem by Barbara Browne

Ah, forsythia. It’s brief season is coming to a close here in Western New York, but over the past couple weeks I think I have seen every kind of use or misuse of the plant. Many awful little meatballs or boxes in rows can be viewed in both city and suburbs. It’s sad to see the yellow flowers trying to assert their presence along the perfectly pruned sticks. They’re programmed to fail.

I’ve also seen some lovely unpruned bushes in parks and individual gardens. The plant looks best to me when it’s at its wildest, but it also seems there is a middle ground. The shrub at the top of this post is likely pruned as are the row of shrubs above, but no so much that the flowers can’t take center stage (that time is a bit past in the second image) and the fountain-like form is still visible.


Here’s what Barbara offers, in honor of a month devoted to poetry as well as one of early spring’s most common flowering shrubs:

“For the Forsythia”

O brassy, unruly forsythia!

I gotta sympathize wythia

Suburban plots where you do dwell

Like unkempt exuberance not so well

The tidiers sharpen up their shears

Afraid their yard is in arrears

Pruned into submission, a real hack job!

Now you’re a dumpy blob, cube, or SpongeBob!

So wonderfully wayward in your natural state!

Your trimmed, tamed fate makes me irate

Diminished and disfigured is your floral display

Causing much aesthetic outrage and dismay.

    Forsooth, let forsythia do its thing:

    For it’s the gold, bold free spirit of spring!


Musician/poet Barbara Browne lives and gardens in suburban Philadelphia, where she is in the first year of the Barnes Arboretum Horticulture Certificate Program.