Nancy Brachey

April 17, 2014

Look for viburnums now in garden centers

Viburnum flowers rank among the most beautiful. Now is the time to look for these shrubs in bloom before you buy them.

Viburnums are underused in home landscapes, but when they bloom in spring, none are more appreciated.

Their flowers rank among the most beautiful, and some are very fragrant with a sweet scent that will enhance any property. Their only demerit is that they look anonymous most of the year, with a shape and foliage not calculated to catch your eye for more than a second.

Even so, when it’s spring, at least one viburnum is essential in the well-furnished Piedmont landscape.

The choices are many. But I truly love three of them, all possessing great merit.

The first is Viburnum tinus, particularly the variety named Spring Bouquet. It is probably the best suited to smaller properties because it matures at 4 to 6 feet and about that wide. This is an attractive evergreen, probably the best for year-round beauty. The foliage is good and the pinkish-white flowers are long-lasting, appearing from late winter into spring.

A second choice among great viburnums is the doublefile, Viburnum plicatum tomentosum, which is a mouthful, I know. The doublefile produces a medium-sized tree with tiers of limbs bearing beautiful white flowers. This is a real stunner, and over time it can reach about 8 feet high. A popular choice is named Mariesii, which makes a lovely, roundish form. Another, named Shasta, grows a bit shorter, to about 6 feet, with flowers that are more snowball shaped than flat like Mariesii.

And then there is the Chinese snowball viburnum. What a sight! The botanical name is another hard one, Viburnum macrocephalum. You might think the flowers resemble a white hydrangea. They are very distinctive, and a mature plant, say 15 feet tall, can bear hundreds of blooms. Mine has a tendency to bloom spectacularly in alternate years, but even in an off year, the blooms are still beautiful, if not so numerous.

All of these viburnums require full sun to perform best, but they are well worth the space they demand for their spring show. Many people like to see a plant in bloom before they buy it, so now is the time to look at these and other good viburnums in garden centers. If you plant now, take special care to water the plants during dry weeks this summer while the plant gets established.

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