White Forsythia

The white forsythia (Abeliophyllum distichum) is one of the earliest blooming shrubs I’ve ever observed and photographed.  We don’t currently have a specimen at RBG but we will some day.  All of these photos are from the same cluster of three white forsythias at Olbrich Botanical Gardens (OBG) in Madison, WI.  A couple years ago, I was strolling around OBG in late March and saw this shrub blooming.  Upon closer observation, I could smell the faint, sweet almond fragrance that this woody plant emits in to the air.  The small white flowers pack a fragrant punch and bloom a couple of weeks before standard forsythias.  Note in these photos that the bloom time of this shrub coincides with peak timing of Siberian squill (Scilla siberica) which is a late March or early April bloomer depending on Mother Nature.  There is a pink blooming selection called ‘Roseum’ which I have yet to observe and photograph. Native to Korea and hardy to zones 5-8, this member of the Oleaceae family will get 4-6′ tall and 3-5′ wide in time.  While preferring full sun, this shrub will also tolerate part shade.  The arching form of the shrub can appear unkempt in time and periodic pruning (right after blooming) can tidy it up a bit.  In its native range of Korea, this plant is critically endangered and can only be currently found in seven sites.  The glossy green leaves aren’t overly exciting but the fall color can be a decent wine-red coloration in very late October.  This shrub is also deer resistant.  I love the early scent and color although it doesn’t contribute too much in terms of interest the remainder of the season to be honest.  It is certainly worth growing though in a mixed shrub border or in areas where the early color and/or scent can be appreciated.  Those early blooms are excellent for providing color and scent by being cut and forced to bloom inside or as part of a fresh arrangement.

The day started out with some April showers in the form of snow!  It melted off quickly but it was a frigid day out there.  I was pampered with another office day at 72 degrees F but Big John, Cindy and Terry had a brisk day outside.  John and Terry worked on many projects including filling our containers with potting soil.  Cindy potted up some new plants that arrived and had outside duties as well including pulling up some of the containerized plants we “heeled in” over the winter.  Bobby K. is juggling multiple projects both inside and outside.  Larry H. continues to work on path improvements out in the gardens and Janice continues to prep for our Spring Plant Sale and is preparing signage information for some of our exciting 2018 collections.  I’m taking little “nibbles of progress” out of myriad tasks, projects and duties as we head in to a very busy season that will explode with some warmth here in the coming weeks.  Looming events include the continuation of our compost sale, pansy sale, Spring Plant Sale and not to mention our busy planting season.  Our volunteers included Alan, Derrick, Dr. Gredler, Peg, Dave, Jim, Vern, Dick H., Bill O., Kathy P. and many others.  We also saw Marcia L., Sandi, Rollie, Maury and some others today.