Forsythia & Flowering Currant - a combination welcoming spring

7th April 2021

Winter's end

Wherever I've been able to make a garden, the following combination of shrubs has always been a great favourite. The popular names of the two elements involved are Flowering Currant and Forsythia. And they invariably come into bloom rapidly at just the same time, from late March into April. After a dull grey winter, their bold, gaudy appearance really is a shocker when you first encounter it. It always signifies winter's end; a herald proclaiming the arrival of spring in the most spectacular fashion.
It always comes as a surprise.


Neither of these plants, it should be said, are native to Britain, yet they have made their home here very readily. Both are hardy in the UK; easy to cultivate and they thrive in just about any variation of climate or soil.

Flowering Currant (
Ribes sanguineum ) is, as you can see, a vibrant shrub, deciduous, with clusters of pendulous dark-red florets. It comes from woods and rocky areas in North America, being introduced into the UK in 1817 where it has become a popular favourite in parks and gardens.

Forsythia, meanwhile, comes originally from the Far East, with varieties finding their way to Europe during the 19th century. It was named after a founding member of the Royal Horticultural Society, William Forsyth (1737–1804). Common in many a front garden or hedge it is celebrated for its profusion of bright yellow flowers. It is also deciduous, with the flowers preceding the leaves, which form on a tangle of gracefully arching stems before falling away in autumn.
The bare branches of Forsythia with deep yellow flowers preceding the leaves.

Blending with the presence of green

The combination of such strong colours – some might even say vulgar colours – illustrates an important principle of horticulture. No matter how unlikely the juxtaposition of colours might at first appear, when combined with the green of accompanying foliage, they somehow magically seem to blend. The greenness surrounding the colours is the key. That’s why those who arrange flowers indoors invariably incorporate a little greenery into their displays. And although the forsythia is without its leaves at present, those of the flowering currant fill in the spaces. That’s probably why this combination always succeeds so well.
The green leaves of the flowering currant blending the two colours (with help from a little bamboo in the background).

Easy to care for, too

No matter how modest your garden, it is easy to make space for these two stunners. And it's easy to care for them too! Almost indestructible, they can be trimmed back pretty drastically during the summer and can therefore make way for other things. There’s not a garden that should be without them, in my view, not least because they really do lift the spirits at just the right time of the year.

Dancing and entertaining

By the way, in case any fans of TV's 'Strictly Come Dancing' are wondering: yes, William Forsyth was indeed a distant ancestor of the popular entertainer, dancer and TV host Bruce Forsyth (1928 - 2017). Oddly, a London-Palladium poster from the sixties features him with the very same colours we’re looking at here. Forsyth received a knighthood from the Queen in 2011 for his services to charity and entertainment. And suddenly coming across this combination of outstanding, irrepressibly jolly flowers on a bright spring morning, it all seems entirely appropriate. Or, as Brucie himself would have said: 'Didn't they do well!'
The very same colours!
Authored by Robert Stephen Parry

You might also like

Arthur Hughes. The 'quiet' Pre-Raphaelite
small sketch of young Victorian gentleman artist, long hair
Classic Poetry
A brief explanation of what makes a sonnet
wistful face of reclining woman
Author Q&A
Exclusive interview with author A. Robin, Esq
head and shoulders half profile of a robin
History & Culture
Flowers at the Gate. A brief history of giving quietly
small image of man in gardening clothes with watering can
small up-arrow linking to top of page