Forsythia is famous for its burst of yellow, late winter flowers, so much so that its comparatively unassuming foliage simply fades into the background. The variegated leaves of Forsythia x intermedia ‘Discovery’ JOHN MITCHELL, however, deserve just as much attention as its blooms!
Read on for the touching story of its creation…
How to grow Forsythia x intermedia ‘Discovery’ JOHN MITCHELL
Flowering time: late February to early April
Location: Borders, hedges, large patio pots or as a statement landscaping piece
Soil: Tolerant of a wide range of soils, does not like to be very wet
Light: Full sun or light dappled shade
Water: Water well when establishing
Care: Prune after flowering in spring to enable fresh stems to develop and mature in time to flower the following spring
Size: 2.5m height and 2m spread after 10 years (but this can be easily restricted with pruning)
How was this plant created?
This Forsythia, like many other plants, has an interesting story behind it. The introduction of Forsythia x intermedia ‘Discovery’ JOHN MITCHELL comes following its discovery 15 years ago in the Oxfordshire garden of John Mitchell, first officer in the UK merchant navy. A single branch sport was found which was propagated by John. This rooted and became the first plant from which all others have been vegetatively propagated, meaning that they are all clonally identical to the first cutting.
It has been vegetatively propagated to ensure that it remains true to type, and has been extensively trialled to ensure it is both uniform and stable and will perform well in gardens – as often variegated plants can revert to green. In over 4000 plants (finished and liners) last year, the breeders didn’t see a single green shoot. Propagation has been slow and careful to ensure its stability with carefully selected shoots propagated at Hillier Nurseries by ‘Master Propagator’ Alan Postill (breeder of Daphne Jacqueline Postill).
Sadly John passed away aged 62 in 2013 after a two-year long battle with dementia. His family are pleased to be able to use this plant to raise funds for research into dementia. John’s great love was the sea. He was a first officer in the UK merchant navy, finishing his career working on the UK Oceanography research vessels. One of his last ships was RSS ‘Discovery’ which is an apt name for this plant.
According to his family, John was gregarious and loved meeting and talking to new people – they hope that this unique plant will become a talking point wherever it is planted.
What’s different about this plant?
This is a vigorous and easy to grow plant – much like other Forsythia it will thrive in most soils and is happy in full sun to light shade. In March and into early April a spectacular display of stunning yellow, star shaped, four-petalled flowers are borne right up the stems. Forsythia are a real sign that Spring is just around the corner!
The flowers are followed by handsome foliage which is green with a bright golden margin that fades to white as the leaves age, a beautiful contrast against the red stems as the wood matures – this ensures that rather than sliding into the background this plant remains in centre stage all summer long.
Where can you plant Forsythia x intermedia ‘Discovery’ JOHN MITCHELL?
Forsythia x intermedia ‘Discovery’ JOHN MITCHELL looks wonderful when used as a landscaping shrub or small tree on a lawn. However, it can also create year-round interest in the border, and will suit a large patio pot if well-looked after.
Where can you buy this plant?
This new plant will be available in all 19 Hillier garden centres across the South of England as well as through the new Hillier Online Shop.
British Bloom of the Month is sponsored by Hillier. With more than 155 years of horticulture knowledge, Hillier is celebrated for growing exceptional quality plants, and is proud to be adding this one to its offering.
See all British Bloom of the Month articles here.
Michael has been involved with gardening and plants since he was just five years old. He is a self-professed Plant Geek, and was listed in the Sunday Times top 20 most influential people in the gardening world, thanks to his plant hunter role at Thompson & Morgan.
Michael was responsible for new plant introductions such as the Egg and Chips plant and the FuchsiaBerry and keeps busy travelling the world in search of new plants as well as lecturing worldwide, including stints in Japan. He is very active on social media – so why not give him a follow at @mr_plantgeek or Facebook – and writes a plant-focused Substack called Grow This, Not That.