I’ve always thought the best place to celebrate spring is in a garden.
Digging in the dirt, filling containers with frilly petunias and other annuals, inhaling lilac perfume, even yanking creeping Charlie out of my flower beds until my knees ache – it’s practically a party every day. And finally as the lilacs fade and irises reveal their delicate bearded beauty, the latest guest has arrived in her dressiest gown.
The common Snowball Bush (Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’) is a garden classic that is an unobtrusive background shrub most of the year. But each May, it bursts forth with an uncommon blizzard of beauty – fat, fluffy snowballs in pristine wedding white. As a friend says, “It’s like a winter wedding in spring.”
This ornamental shrub has been grown for centuries in gardens around the world, valued for its size (it can reach 12 feet tall at maturity) and hardiness. It colors up in the fall and produces berries that birds love.
Mine grows near a tall fence, so I spent a little time underneath it, pruning out branches that have been shaded up. Pruning also opened up the “legs” of the shrub, giving it a more stately appearance.
Viburnums are very versatile and useful in the landscape. They require little maintenance once established, and deer don’t find them particularly tasty.
“Spice Girl” (V. carlesii), a Koreanspice viburnum, is perfect for smaller gardens. It reaches 42 to 60 inches tall, making it a compact or medium-height shrub. White and pink blooms are delicately fragrant on plants that do well in part sun or full sun, blooming on old wood.
“All That Glows” is an arrowwood viburnum with glossy green foliage. In early summer, the shrub is full of white flower clusters. When planted next to its pollinator, “All That Glitters,” it produces shiny blue berries. Both of these plants are compact and perfect specimens in the landscape.
All three viburnums are hardy to USDA Zone 4.
Looking for an even smaller shrub? “Lil’ Ditty” (V. cassinoides) is one of the few dwarf viburnums on the market at 2 feet tall at maturity. It’s hardy to Zone 3, forms a mound and produces prolific, fragrant creamy blooms in late spring.
“Tandoori Orange” is the first orange-fruited linden viburnum (Zone 5). Spring brings large white flower clusters, and in fall, the shrub colors up. Plant it near “Cardinal Candy” viburnum for fruit on both plants. “Cardinal Candy” is very hardy with lots of creamy white flowers in summer and abundant bright red berries in fall.
And coming in spring 2018 is “Wabi-Sabi.” It’s a dwarf version of doublefile viburnum, growing low and wide. In late spring, each branch bears pure white lacecap flowers. The plant itself has a strong horizontal presence, creating variation in borders and along walkways.
Most viburnums are tolerant of light shade, and all are easy to grow in well-drained locations, although a few varieties can stand a wetter setting, such as near a pond.