A couple errant warm days this week startled spring into subtle splendor, this leafless, stiff and formless shrub leading the way on the east side of the house with a cheerful display of yellow capable to rival the daffodils that are blooming in clumps elsewhere in the garden.
I only wish I knew exactly what it was! I had previously written about this shrub as Genista lydia, but I'm currently having doubts about its identity. Genista lydia blooms at the right time, but it should have more legume-form flowers. However, the only other yellow shrub-like plant that I have recorded in this bed is Diervilla sessilifolia 'Butterfly', the Southern Bush Honeysuckle, which should bloom much later and blooms in clusters. Regardless, this thing is ungainly, incredibly invasive, decidedly unattractive when out of flower and barely tolerable in flower, but it is the absolutely earliest thing to bloom in my garden each year. Even so, I occasionally get tired of finding it spreading in and around other plants in this bed and I've tried more than once to grub it out. It persists despite my best half-hearted efforts.
I'm happier about the bloom of Abeliophyllum distichum 'Roseum', the Pink Forsythia. A rare shrub in this area, it never really looks healthy, but it also persists, and each year gives me a slightly better display of these briefly pink flowers that quickly fade to white. About two weeks ahead of the more showy yellow forsythias, it smashes those later and brassier namesakes this time of year by being incredibly sweet-scented, a light and delicate bouquet that draws me in whenever I pass nearby. The bush itself is a bit spindly, and I try each summer to give it a little special attention, more than its fair share of fertilizer and water, but she never seems to respond as I'd like. With Pink Forsythia, I suppose I should just shut up and be happy it survives here at all.
Despite my earlier pleas this month, this first bloom opened 3 days ago, followed by an explosion of about 30% of the shrub's blooms the next day, immediately thereafter placed and now held in suspended animation by a cold front that swept through. This is the flower I most wait for every spring, carrying the heavy-scented musk fragrance that I could and would happily drown myself in. It may be cold outside, and these blooms near frozen, but bring them inside and they warm up and exude pure pleasure in a few minutes. Forget Old Spice and Brut, I think men would attract more feminine attention if our aftershaves smelled like Star Magnolia rather than cloves. Are you listening, Aromachologists? Let's bottle it and put some Star Magnolia aftershave on Walmart's shelves and perhaps the pandemic and quarantine won't be quite so lonely for any of us.