picture: Opening forsythia
with, of course, yew, Hope Street, Stamford CT
Forsythia is so much a part of the Northern suburban
landscape that itís hard to believe itís not native.
The story goes it was ďdiscoveredĒ in China in the
1840ís by a plant hunter sneaking around in
disguise. He smuggled it back to England where they
named it in honor of the great Scottish
horticulturist, William Forsyth. Around 1860, it was
imported into the USA and spread from there.
The other thing thatís hard to believe is
that itís a member of the olive family. Yes,
itís an olive. Surprisingly, though, so are
privets (the hedge), lilacs, jasmine, and
ash trees. Whoíd have guessed?
And the third surprising thing is that
the deer donít like it much. Now, thatís
surprising. If you go to the, http://
Connecticut Gardenerís web site , thereís a
study on what local deer do and donít eat,
and forsythia is rated as ďunlikely to be
damagedĒ by critters that think nothing of
munching up the yew, euonymus, arborvitae,
rhodies, holly, yucca, red cedar, and
juniper. Go figure. Forsythia doesnít show
up on the major poison control sites (some
actual go out on a limb and say that itís
not poisonous); it is used heavily in
Chinese traditional medicine. Many animals
shelter in forsythia thickets, and some of
our small neighbors do eat the spring buds.
Otherwise, the plant seems to be ignored by
all and sundry. Even the Japanese beetles
leave it pretty much alone.
Which leads to the next surprise: despite
the lack of predators, itís also not
particularly invasive. My guess is that this
is so because forsythiaís seeds are not bird
favorites, forsythiaís some what shallow
rooted and therefore is not all that
tolerant of drought or bad winters.
Further south, at Kal and Rogerís in
Maryland, the forsythiaís in full bloom:
Ah, so pretty. We need to thank Kal and her
niece for the fine photos.
Culturally, thereís not that much to know
about forsythia since itís virtually
care-free. You can force the branches in
late wither and then root the cuttings.
Branches will root if they touch the ground.
It doesnít really care much about soil
conditions but wants full sun or just a
touch of shade. Water during droughts, and
mulch the feet in the winter. It grows cane
directly from the root crown. Every few
years, it doesnít hurt to take out some of
the bigger, older wood so that thereís
plenty of room for fresh growth. (Despite
what some do to the poor bush,
hedge-clipping is not necessary).