Viburnums for winter interest
A flowering sprig of the deciduous Viburnum grandiflorum was gathered in early October. Too early for what is essentially a winter flowering shrub that bursts into bloom on the leafless twigs during November and onwards, belying that old jingle, "No bees, no birds, no flowers, November" The tall, upright growing V. grandiflorum and its close relation V. farreri (once aptly named V. fragrans), which can be even more startling when covered in clusters of white, pink-tinged heavenly scented flowers, are both perfectly hardy. So too is the hybrid between them V. x bodnantense from the splendid garden Bodnant in Wales, a large upright deciduous shrub with densely packed clusters of rose tinted flowers that are fairly frost-resistant.
There are other hybrids from Bodnant that are called 'Dawn' and 'Deben' - just as hardy and with ample flowers. There is a pure white form of V. farreri called 'Candissimum' to look out for, but the dwarf form of V. farreri (and at 1 ft. it really is a dwarf) is not all that free flowering, otherwise it would make a fantastic pot plant.
If fragrant winter flowering viburnums without leaves seem a little bare there is another important evergreen viburnum, V. tinus to consider, with flat clusters of white flowers tinged pink and slightly scented, flowering continuously through the winter and after a hot summer producing crops of metallic blue fruits that the birds seem to leave alone. An early variety 'Eve Price' has attractive carmine tinted buds, while the later 'Gwenllian' with pink tinged flowers has abundant crops of the metallic blue fruits. There is also a pure white form of V. tinus called 'French White' and a substantial flowered V. tinus called 'Israel'. Leaves take a back seat when the winter flowers come, but V. tinus makes an excellent hedge and there are purple leaved and variegated forms as well as the shiny leaved V. tinus 'Lucidum'.
First published in the Cornwall Group Newsletter, November 2008
and subsequently in Cornucopia Issue 26.
© Copyright for this article: Yvonne Matthews
This article was taken from a copy of Cornucopia that was published in 2010. You could be reading these articles as they are published to a national audience, by subscribing to Cornucopia.