Sunday 23 October 2016

Spring is in the air with viburnum

Gerry Daly

Published 24/04/2016 | 02:30

One of the best plants for scent in spring is viburnum
One of the best plants for scent in spring is viburnum

The flowers of the spring viburnum are scented with a rich, sweet and slightly spicy scent that fills the garden on a warm spring day.

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In the clusters of flowers, the florets are separated to form a loose structure. Opening in varied stages, the clusters are dotted all over the bush. Just as the flowers open, the first leaves appear in a very complementary shade of fresh apple green.

The combination of pink buds, white flowers and bright green leaves is fresh and very spring-like. The one pictured here is the deciduous Viburnum carlesii, native of Japan, and makes a rounded bush about two metres tall and wide. The pretty variety 'Aurora' has dark pink buds that open pale pink.

The flower clusters of the hybrid Viburnum x burkwoodii are larger and the florets are more closely held in the cluster. This hybrid, which has the first kind as a parent, is evergreen with large leaves and it is a bigger bush than the parent. The flowers are very well scented with a similar scent. Also carrying the same genes, is another commonly grown hybrid, Viburnum x carlcephalum, which also has clusters of flowers, but perhaps double the size of those of the Japanese parent species.

The flowers open from pink buds like the others and are very well scented too. The florets are held more tightly in the rounded clusters, which give a 'snowball' appearance.

This hybrid can reach three metres tall and wide. Much smaller, at about half that height, Viburnum x juddii, is another offspring of the same parent. Its flowers are more like those of Viburnum carlesii, smaller and more open. It forms a very pretty rounded bush and flowers a bit later than the others.

There are two other viburnums that are worth mentioning - the autumn-flowering fragrant viburnum and lauristinus, the winter viburnum, both of which are still in flower, but now tiring. The autumn viburnum, which is deciduous, was wonderfully scented in the warm days of autumn and it has a second show in spring but not as good.

The evergreen winter viburnum is great in winter, one of very few shrubs for the dull months and still going, but unfortunately it has no scent. The autumn viburnum can reach well over three metres and the lauristinus too.

The rounded flower heads of the spring kinds are a very decorative and stand out quite dramatically. They are best planted where they form part of the background later.

They are easy to grow in any kind of soil that is not very heavy and wet in winter.

Choosing the right compost

Q. "I need to plant some heathers. Could I use multi-purpose compost with added John Innes? It says on the packet that it contains "a blend of loam, perlite, coarse grit, sphagnum moss peat and fertilisers."

N Doyle, by email

A. Multi-purpose compost has lime added, which the heathers may not want. But some kinds of heathers such as winter heathers, don't mind lime. Check which kind you have. If they don't mind lime, use the multi-purpose but mix it well with the soil. If they need acid soil, get some ericaceous compost.

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