The Forsythia saga

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So what’s the difference between “common” and “popular”? Both are terms used to describe the in-your-eye yellow Forsythia.

The two terms are often confused but can actually effect the meaning behind a statement, for example “popular” should be used to describe something or someone that a lot of people like, but “common” is used to describe something that occurs often. When something is common, it is not always apparent whether people like it or not.

The problem with Forsythia is that it is so “common”’ that it may be seen as commonplace, but take a good long look at it and maybe you’ll fall for the plant just for its distinctive looks.

Traditionally considered a herald of spring, Forsythia is said to be a symbol of a good nature, innocence, and anticipation. Korean legend states that this flower depicts the rejuvenation of love. And even if you don’t put any stock in symbols and legends, you should be cheered by the sight of the mass of yellow blooms which appear for a few weeks every spring.

Forsythia was introduced here in the 19th century from Japan by William Forsyth, a Scottish botanist and a founding member of the RHS. But Forsythia didn’t really take off until Robert Fortune introduced the British to the Chinese species, Forsythia fortune.

Forsythia is a great choice for a container garden. They need little care and are hardy and will faithfully produce those bright golden, bell-shaped flowers on bare branches in the spring. And then, when the flowers fade, green foliage appears and lasts throughout summer and autumn.

Unfortunately, a lot of Forsythia plants are left to their own devices to grow wild and free. They can become untidy, unruly and unattractive; keep it under control, even trained up a trellis, and it will not disappoint.

Plant a specimen in sun or partial shade, ideally in moist but well-drained soil, although the plants are not very fussy and will grow just about anywhere where the soil isn’t waterlogged.

For the best blooms, prune the branches that have flowered back to a pair of strong buds just after they have finished blooming.

To propagate, just pull off a bit of stem and stick it in the soil – nine times out of 10 it will root and grow without any encouragement from the gardener.