Spicebush and Forsythia
Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) and Forsythia, two shrubs that burst into yellow flowers in early spring. They seem to exemplify two different styles in the garden.
The beauty of Spicebush flowers is subtle, and you have to get up close to appreciate it. It’s enhanced by proper light and a dark background, otherwise it is difficult to photograph.
Without those elements, and from a short distance, Spicebush is unremarkable. It is an introverted shrub, but a very praiseworthy one. It has great wildlife value beyond the early flowers. The leaves feed the caterpillars of the Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly (though I have never seen a caterpillar on mine, which makes me sad). And the ripe red berries are a high quality food for migrating birds.
What’s more, Spicebush leaves have a pleasant citrus aroma.
By contrast, Forsythia is an extrovert. It is bright, brash, and unconstrained.
However, some consider Forsythia to be something of a one trick pony. Where’s the second act, they ask, after the flowers are done? This question is discussed in one of my more popular posts, “Forsythia: For or Against?”
A mass of Forsythia makes a statement that cannot be missed even at a considerable distance. More like a joyful shout. Some say that its dense, thickety habit provides good cover for song birds. Forsythia also makes a decent hedge plant, which I wouldn’t say of Spicebush.
I wouldn’t devote more space to Forsythia, but I’m glad we have the one shrub. I would be sad if some new disease emerged and wiped out all the Forsythia in the world.
Even so, I give a higher priority to Spicebush in our garden. Ideally, there should be space for both Spicebush and Forsythia. If I had to choose only one, though, I would go with the Spicebush.
How about you?