A late bloomer with an unforgettable scent
One of the joys of autumn, the fragrant viburnum is in flower and has been for a few weeks. The scent of its flower is not to be forgotten – a sweet, slightly honeyed, musky but light perfume. It carries on the breeze on a warm afternoon.
There are very few shrubs that flower this late in the year. Those that do are to be valued, and this one is widely grown in gardens.
But it is perhaps less well known nowadays than in former times, mainly because it makes a big bush.
It can reach three metres tall, and nearly as broad, but it is rare to see it at that size. Usually it is pruned, and it takes pruning very well so it is not difficult to keep within bounds.
Even if it finally gets too big, it can be cut back hard, if necessary, even to ground level and it will re-establish.
The small tubular individual flowers are carried in clusters of 30 or so. The colour of the flowers in bud is a rosy pink, opening to blush pink and fading to white.
Only a small fraction of the buds open in autumn and some of the buds in each cluster follow the first ones to open.
Later on in winter and spring, other buds swell and open their flowers, generating a long flowering period from late October until April, which makes the fragrant viburnum a very useful shrub.
When the flowers first open, they are hidden by the leaves, which, colouring nicely, are still holding on at that stage.
It is only in November, when the leaves have fallen, that the flower clusters can be seen dotted prettily along the bare branches.
While this shrub flowers quite young, its flowering increases considerably as it gets older and more established.
There are a few named varieties, selections and hybrids from two species, which come originally from northern China.
One of the most popular is 'Dawn', considered the most beautiful, with pink, sweetly scented flowers and a more tidy growing habit than the parents.
'Dawn' is usually the form offered for sale in garden centres but there are some other named varieties, such as 'Charles Lamont' with large pink flowers, and 'Deben' which has white flowers.
The fragrant viburnum thrives in any ordinary soil that is not wet in winter. It should be given a position where it can be seen in flower, but with lower plants in front in summer because it looks very plain then.