Forsythias and other spring flowering gems

By Rannveig (rannveig) on June 3, 2011

I’ve dreamt of growing a Forsythia shrub in my garden for a long time. These wonderful yellow bushes that are an unmistakable sign of spring in Europe and the US. I thought it was a hopeless dream, that it would be impossible for this shrub to grow, let alone flower here, but when I stumbled upon plants for sale at a plant nursery two years ago I knew I just HAD to give it a try.

Korean forsythia - Forsythia ovata 'Tetragold'The plant in question is Forsythia ovata ‘Tetragold‘, Korean forsythia. As the common name suggests its origins are in Korea and it’s much hardier than the Forsythia species commonly grown in warmer climates. I still thought it safest to plant it on the south side of the house so it would be sheltered from the north wind and to my delight it’s thriving there. Hardly any dieback and it flowered beautifully this May.

The choices of spring-flowering shrubs are very limited to say the least so it’s nice to find a new addition to that very short list. Daphne mezereum, February Daphne is the first shrub to burst into flower in late March – April. In late April – early May the Kurile Cherry, Prunus nipponica var. kurilensis flowers. The Korean forsythia flowers between these two. And that concludes the list of spring flowering shrubs and trees that grow here in Iceland. I might be overlooking a few species, there could be some Rhododendrons that start flowering in May and I don’t count the willows as flowering shrubs. But for the most part it’s not until the end of May or early June that other shrubs and trees start into flower. And by then summer has arrived. Theoretically speaking at least. It’s debatable whether our current highs around 48°F can be considered summer temperatures, but it’s June so we’ll call it summer.



Oxlip, Amoena primrose (back) and English primrose (left)

Fortunately the variety of spring flowering perennials and bulbs is plentiful and adds a welcome splash of color to the otherwise dreary shades of April and May. Crocus and daffodils are well known and widely grown. The crocus flowered in late March to early April but the daffodils started in late April and are still in flower. The variety of colors and flower forms are much greater than the widely grown yellow daffodils, ranging in color from white to dark orange-red.

Spring flowering primroses are just past their peak now, but from late April through May they are the most prominent flowering perennials in the garden. The Primula genus is so large and varied that it has been divided into quite a few sections and there are two groups or sections that are most noticable at this time. The vernalis group is as the name suggests the first to flower, the first start into flower in mid-April. They are all hardy and excellent garden plants. The oxlip, Primula elatior and Primrose, Primula x pruhoniciana are two examples and the primrose cultivar ‘John Mo’ is usually first to flower in my garden. Another favorite in this section is the amoena primrose, Primula amoena. The other section is the Auricula group that typically starts into flower in early May. The garden auricula, Primula x pubescens is the most widely grown and there are countless cultivars in almost all colors except true blue. Other wonderful species from this section are the mountain cowslip, Primula auricula and Primula marginata, which is my favorite in this group. The list of spring flowering primroses would be incomplete without mentioning the drumstick primrose, Primula denticulata which flowers from April well into June.

Other essential plants in the spring garden are the common hepatica, Hepatica nobilis, pasque flowers (Pulsatilla), lungworts (Pulmonaria) and Grecian windflowers (Anemone blanda) plus a variety of small bulbous plants such as Scilla, glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa) and many more. There’s plenty to choose from and after the darkness and bleak colors of winter the bright colors of spring sure are a sight for sore eyes.

This is an English translation of an article that first appeared here.

Mountain cowslip (center front), cowslip 'Sunset Strain' (right), red pasque flower and more spring flowering plants Daffodils in bloomFebruary daphne and crocus in flower in AprilPrimroses 'John Mo' (front) and 'Wanda' (back)Primula marginata common Hepatica, Hepatica nobilis Drumstick primrose  red pasque flower, Pulsatilla vulgaris 'Rubra'

Related articles:
Forsythia, Iceland gardening, spring flowering plants

About Rannveig
Born and raised in Iceland, I found a deeper appreciation for my country after spending 6 years of my teens in the US (Florida). I've been a garden enthusiast since my childhood and love the challenges of gardening in Iceland ..... well, most of the time. I have to admit that slighly longer, warmer summers would not be a bad thing.

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