Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Forsythia Memories

Hello Pamela Michel,

I read your interesting Appalachian Spring story through the Wild Writing Women newsletter, and I want to comment about your question about why we don't have forsythia here on the West Coast. My comment, as one writer to another, has to be in the form of a story.

First of all, I have to tell you, I love them too. Even though the blossoms are tiny, with their vivid yellowness and their early arrival they proclaim emphatically that Spring is coming.

I grew up in the Boston area, where forsythia abound. In Minnesota, where I spent about 20 years, I would drive around Minneapolis homesick for forsythia in the Spring. My longings were assuaged a little by my finding a solitary forsythia bush outside a building on the U of Minn's west bank campus in front of the architecture building.

In 1999, I went to Rome for the opening of the Holy Door at St. Peter's on Christmas Eve, and my heart was gratified to see that forsythia were displayed in golden masses around the altar, blooming by some florist's legerdemain in the dead of a Roman winter. I went to Mass there often during the time I was in Rome, and I spent a lot of time gazing at the forsythia while I worshipped God.

Three years ago I ordered two forsythia bushes from a Canadian greenhouse. What I got in the mail were two dry twigs. I planted them out in front of my old Victorian house in San Jose, near the curb, in what they call the "park strip" around here. One died, the other one straggled on for three years, only showing a few green leaves last Spring and not looking forsythia-like at all. I wondered whether they had sent me the wrong plant.

This year after a long, rainy, colder than normal winter, many of the things I've planted around my old house have started to take off. The forsythia is one of them. I just have to share with you the happiness I felt when I saw the familiar yellow blooms in February shining on a few twigs on my little bush.

A few weeks later , my two knee-high special varieties of lilac bushes that don't require cold winters started to bloom too, after a similar long wait,. But that's another story . . ..

To go back to your question, I think the simple answer to why we don't see forsythia in the West Coast because they usually don't do well in the climate around here. We're outside of their comfort zone on the hot end, like Minnesota is outside of their comfort zone on the cold end.

Best regards,

Roseanne Sullivan
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