Last month, my column discussed the little guys — dwarf conifers. This month, I’m delving into bigger shrubs — specifically viburnums, which are showy and vigorous with many attributes.
There are plenty of viburnums hardy enough for our climate. Take your pick as to what’s important — masses of spring flowers, summer berries, fall color, textured leaves. In addition to these pluses, they are nice for screening unsightly areas and great as back-of-the border shrubs. Most of them need plenty of space; they’re not known as being shy and refined.
Come fall, birds will appreciate those berries, but generally viburnums are not self-fertile; with just one shrub, you’ll get flowers but not necessarily berries.
In our climate, most are deciduous, although a few really hardy ones like the hybrid ‘Eskimo’ might over-winter in a semi-evergreen state.
We planted a Viburnum plicatum tomentosum ‘Mariesii’ near our backyard fence, and in late spring its impressive display of white lacecap flower heads sprinkled along horizontal branches is simply stunning. No berries on this one though. Most gardeners call this group just doublefile viburnum rather than by its Latin moniker.
In addition to this dramatic spring performance, it screens out the background, as it grows six or more feet tall and even wider. Being deciduous, bare branches don’t do a lot for winter screening, but summer is really when screening is most important anyway.
Ours gets full sun, a bit of fertilizer in the spring, and is on our regular border irrigation system. I cut out crossed or dead branches, but otherwise pretty much let it do its own thing. Pretty trouble-free as far as I’m concerned.
Spring is a good time for planting shrubs. Dig a hole no deeper than the container, and one or two times wider. Trim off or untangle any roots going around the pot, situate it in the planting hole with its best side forward, then tamp in soil and water.
V. carlesii or Koreanspice viburnum, is known for wonderful spring fragrance when those pink buds open into white flowers. It’s ideal with a little light shade during our hottest months.
There is an evergreen viburnum that can tolerate our cold — V. rhytidophyllum or leatherleaf viburnum. It has a somewhat coarse look and can grow quite tall and wide. It sports long, narrow deeply veined leaves and has less impressive flowers than most in this group, and takes more shade. In cold weather the leaves droop, much like rhododendrons, and leaves become tattered in cold winds.
V. opulus or cranberry bush is extremely hardy, vigorous and sports great fall coloring.
If you’re searching for a large shrub or two and vibrunum’s attributes strike your fancy, do a little homework to select just the right cultivar for your landscape.
A WSU Master Gardeners of Chelan County column appears weekly in the At Home section. Mary Fran McClure is one of three columnists featured.