Central Park

The Forsythia is in Bloom!

My fifth grade teacher was a bitter old woman who didn’t like children—especially me. Now why anyone would not like me at that stage is  a mystery; I was a very compliant child. Nevertheless Miss Braden ruined my ten-year-old life. However, she introduced me to Forsythia, and for that I owe her. I remember clearly the morning she brought some branches to school and put them in a vase.

86th Street Transverse, Central Park
Forsythia, 86th Street Transverse, Central Park, New York City

Since that day so many springs ago, except for the 19 years that I lived in the tropics, I have noticed and loved the blooming of the Forsythia. Nineteen  years, incidentally, is a long time to go without Forsythia.

The first spring after I moved to New York, I was thrilled to discover that the ledges of the 86th Street sunken transverse road through Central Park are lined with Forsythia! As you pass through the Park, for a few lovely days in spring you see burst after burst of glorious gold that tells you the long dark winter is finally over.

For Housman, it was the cherry tree:

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now

Is hung with bloom along the bough,

And stands about the woodland ride

Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now of my threescore years and ten,

Twenty will not come agin,

And take from seventy springs a score,

It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom

Fifty springs is little room,

About the woodlands I will go

To see the cherry hung with snow.

For Whitman, it was the lilac.

When lilacs last in the dooyard bloom’d,

And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night,

I mourn’d—and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.

O ever returning spring! trinity sure to me you bring

Lilac blooming perennial, and drooping star in the west,

And thought of him I love.

For me it is the Forsythia.images-6

17 thoughts on “The Forsythia is in Bloom!

  1. Hi Mary! I had a teacher like that–in 4th Grade. She was nuts to most everyone, but took out her vehement energies on me in particular. I couldn’t tell you why. She didn’t bring forsythia to class, though. Nothing redeemed her! (Her name was Miss Black, ironically, enough. Think John Donne: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/holy-sonnet-iv-oh-my-black-soul/).

    What strikes me most personally about your post, though, is that my childhood home is surrounded by 6- to- 8-foot forsythia hedges, which create such a joyful entry into Spring (and has done so since I was about 3 years old). I also grew up with a 2-storey white lilac tree, from which I always brought one bouquet to my teacher (except to Miss Black), and one to the secretary in the principal’s office in elementary school. It was cut down during some construction, and since then it never quite grew back like it was–but it is still there, and has been producing lilacs for at least 50-60 years! These flowers are not only beautiful, but it is no wonder they are the subject of poetry, being symbols of longevity and eternity.

    Happy Spring to you! It’s April, but let’s hope it arrives soon!

    Dayle

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    1. I’ve had this post ready for days. Yesterday on my way to the East Side through the Park, I saw that it was time to publish it! I love lilacs, too. My grandmother had a beautiful bush. Do you know the scene in Nunsense where Sister Amnesia smells the lilacs??
      Thanks for the link to the Donne poem.

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    1. I’m afraid poetry is above my pay grade—penning it,that is. However, as Dayle has suggested there are plenty of poems about beautiful spring flowers. But I don’t know of one about forsythia. If anyone knows one, please share!

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  2. Thank you, Mary! You are the first person I’ve met who shares my nostalgic love of the forsythia! Mine were plucked each childhood spring from our sprawling front yard bush. These days I pluck them from the flower selection at the bodega, but they are just as cheering after a long winter 🙂

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  3. Two wonderful things about this post: everyone has a Ms Braden in their past. Dante should have invented a special spot for them. Mine was Miss O’rear. Oh, the poems the students created. And the second is the universal feeling of greeting spring with the flowers. If you live south of the Mason-Dixon Line, it is the azaleas. They are glorious today in Louisiana.

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      1. Oh no. Miss Black is definitely alive and well, though hopefully retired. She still darkens doorsteps. She visits a neighbor of my mother’s across the street from her. (Shiver.)

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  4. Sorry, but the yellow flowers are far too early to be Forsythia, and have the wrong number of petals to be Forsythia – they are “Winter Jasmine”. Check the NYC Parks blog, they will report the bloom climax every year, as it is a rare burst of color in mid-winter here in the City

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    1. I asked a Central Park administrator of the Park (Caroline Greenleaf–yes, that is really her name) about the Forsythia along the 86th Street Transverse. Since it wasn’t in bloom at the time, and their records didn’t show the species, she promised to have the staff check it when it bloomed and let me know. They now have checked, it just now being in bloom, and I just heard from her; she says it is “not false Forsythia” but Forsythia x intermedia. If you’d like to see her email, send me your address and I’ll forward it.

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