Plants - Perennials

Plant profile: Viburnum

Pretty flowers with an amiable personality, viburnums make the most congenial garden companions.

Woody plant expert Dr. Michael Dirr writes that “a garden without a viburnum is akin to life without music and art,” and we have to concur. With about 150 species and hundreds of cultivars, there is a viburnum for every situation: they may be large or small, but almost all bear beautiful white, cream or pink flowers in early summer followed by colourful fruit.

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'Shasta' Doublefire Viburnum photography by Millette PhotoMedia

Plant profile: Viburnum
In recent years, the spread of the devastating Eurasian viburnum leaf beetle (Pyrrhalta viburni) has led many gardeners to remove mature stands of everything from the widely planted European cranberrybush viburnum (Viburnum opulus) to our popular American cranberrybush viburnum (V. trilobum syn. V. o. var. americanum).

The beetle (VLB for short) was first detected in Ottawa in 1947 and since then has advanced slowly but surely, eventually making landfall in British Columbia about 15 years ago. It’s difficult to control without chemical insecticides, so we recommend planting one of the many viburnum species that are resistant to beetle attacks, such as the show-stopping doublefiles or the fantastically fragrant Koreanspice and Judd viburnums. Although many viburnums are indigenous to North America and Europe, some of the very best are native to Asia and were unknown to western gardeners until relatively recent times.

Daring Scottish plant hunter Robert Fortune (1812-80) introduced the first Asian species, the Japanese snowball viburnum, in 1846, but its kissing cousin, ‘Mariesii’ doublefile viburnum, didn’t make its way west for
another 30 years.

Charles Maries (1851-1902), VMH, was an English plant collector who was sent to Asia by the prestigious London nursery James Veitch & Sons, Chelsea, and while in Japan in 1877, he found his namesake viburnum, often cited as the most beautiful of all flowering shrubs.

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