Photo courtesy of Craig Summers Black.
Iâ€™ve never before gardened anywhere cold enough for forsythia. (Can you tell I devote far too much time trying to dream up advantages to this nasty climate?)
My Iowa-gal wife has regaled me with stories about growing up with them, her dadâ€™sÂ love of them, harbingers of spring etc., and any interest she has in horticulture I try to foster. So I knew I our weedy little acreage would have some forsythias in its future.
Most of the year these shrubs really look kind of rangy â€“ humdrum bordering on ratty. And in the spring, those klieg-light yellow flowers look â€“ depending on my mood at the time â€“ either perky or alarmingly strident.
Then I discovered variegated forsythias. Like almost every other variegated plant, they are a good thing. These cultivars are somewhat shy springtime bloomers, so their flowers donâ€™t get all in-your-face garish.
Then â€“ Blackieâ€™s 4F Garden Dictum: Flowers fade but foliage is forever.
The bushes hold your interest all growing season, with variegations ranging from subtle to intense. One variety â€“ Golden Times (see photo at right) â€“ has splashes of yellow so enthusiastic that the tips of some branches have leaves completely awash in it.
The stripes in Fiesta foliage (see Photo No. 2 above) almost glow.
And the more-mottled-than-striped VariegataÂ at this very moment seems to be seasonally confused; half of the foliage has already turned its fall color and, springlike, it is actually blooming. Again!
But my favorite is Kumson (Forsythia viridissima koreana) â€“ see Photo No. 1 above â€“ which has veining reminiscent of a cathedralâ€™s stained-glass window.
That these plants hold their leaves even after the first killing frosts and hard freezes also makes them near and dear to my heart. We had a record-early snow (Two inches! On Oct. 10!), and their foliage is still looking fresh. Most of the maple trees hereabouts donâ€™t even have leaves, and these guys are still performing.
Next post: A closer look at a fall Fiesta of color.
What else Iâ€™m into this week: Dr. Boliâ€™s Celebrated Magazine, horticultural wordplay run amok.
Craig Summers Black is an award-winning writer, editor, and photographer who gardens feverishly on a weedy acreage in the Midwestern heartland. He has found that it can be more than a tad colder in Iowa than at his previous gardens in California, Hawaii, Texas, and Florida.
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