Common Ground – Forsythia is Pure Joy


Photo ©DCarew

“Forsythia is pure joy. There is not an ounce, not a glimmer of sadness….in forsythia. Pure, undiluted, untouched joy.”

Anne Morrow Lindbergh

It is a toss-up this year as to what has been more spectacular: the daffodils or forsythia. I was afraid that the forsythia would be damaged by the late cold weather we had in March. In very cold years I have seen it go straight to green leaves in the spring without putting on a show.

I planted a Northern Gold forsythia about twenty five years ago and it has grown and thrived. Northern Gold can be a bit of a monster and needs lots of pruning to keep it from getting as big as a house. I try to take out at least a quarter to a third every few years. Forsythia should be pruned right after it flowers. Fortunately there are newer varieties of forsythia that stay more compact than the one I planted years ago.

I was given one of those gorgeous English gardening magazines recently. There was an article about Felley Priory in northern England which is famous for vast swathes of naturalised daffodils.

I was interested to learn that all of these daffodils are deadheaded. It apparently takes hours a day once they have finished flowering. Removing the old flowers and not allowing seed heads to form saves the bulb energy which will go into next year’s flower.

I was heartened to see that the chipmunks and red squirrels have left me some species tulips. Last summer I would come home at the end of the day and find the skins of the tulips on my back step. Apparently the skins are not to their liking. There are five or six small clumps remaining. I appreciate them more needless to say since I thought they had been wiped out completely.

This year we had one of the shortest spring breakups that I can remember. I was able to get into the gardens in early April. I continue to be thankful for that Ganaraska sand that is so light and well drained and easy on my back.

Sweet peas planted back in early April (though not April first as the seed packet instructed) are finally up. They took nineteen days to appear. Patience is definitely a virtue if you want to grow sweet peas.

I planted Old Spice and Incense Mix. These were both recommended to me as being particularly fragrant. I’m hoping to have a mass of sweet peas as my grandfather did. If we have enough rain and cooler weather than last summer I may get my wish.

This year’s garden show in Peterborough in April was a bit too crowded to be enjoyable but I did come home with a few treasures. I bought a few crowns of Millennium asparagus developed at the University of Guelph. This variety is green with just a tinge of purple. It will make a nice contrast with the plain green older asparagus (variety unknown) that I planted many years ago.

I also got some very showy bicolour glads, a vulgar choice to some. My response to anyone who thinks glads are tacky is to say that Vita Sackville-West planted a lot of Red Hot Pokers at Sissinghurst. Those are definitely way tackier and uglier than glads.

Finally, a word about self-seeded annuals. Many of the annuals that are available for sale in the spring as plants will self- seed. This means that if you learn what the seedlings look like you will only ever buy that plant once. If you did your fall clean up (and you did that didn’t you?), all you need to do in the spring is thin out the carpet of annual seedlings. And voila another season of flowers.

A few annuals that self- seed freely are cosmos, cleome, datura, nicotine, California poppy, shirley poppy, sunflowers, snapdragons, marigolds, night scented stock and portulaca.

By Jill Williams


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