Introduction to The British Gardener's website

Damn Good plants, Berrying Viburnums - Part 2

Part 2 - Exotic Treasures

In Part 1, we took a look at some of our native berrying Viburnums and highlighted a few cultivars that stood out from the crowd.  In Part 2 of this mini series of posts, I'll delve into the non-native Viburnums that have found homes in our gardens.

I should mention at this point that some of these introduced types are considered invasive in various parts of the country.  While I'm not opposed to using non-natives, and have many in my garden, this is a highly debated issue.  Like anything that produces heavy quantities of berries, you have the chance of the seeds being broadcast over a wide area by birds that consume the fruit as part of their diets.  Though the potential for the plant to have invasive tendencies is there, the environmental conditions have to be just right for a population to explode.  This situation can vary geographically, but as gardeners, we need to be responsible with our selections to make sure that there isn't a concern over it in your area.

However, part of the attraction of gardening is that we can grow plants from many different parts of the world in our own back yard.  A trip to a well supplied garden center is like a walk around a virtual global bizarre, with many curiosities never before seen.  I personally like the fact many of my own plantings aren't what you'll see in other gardens or mainstream nurseries but this can pose some risk without proper knowledge.

Viburnum davidii

Viburnum davidii - David Viburnum

The David Viburnum was discovered in western China by Jean Pierre Armand David, during the period of 1862-1874 and named to honor the Christian missionary.  It is a popular evergreen that stays at a manageable, compact mounding size (4 ft x 4 ft).  The large leathery leaves have three distinct deep veins that run a long the length of the leaf, radiating  from  the noticeably red leaf stalk.  Small, white flowers give way to bright metallic blue berries in October, unlike anything seen before in the Viburnum group.  Confusion surrounds this species regarding the pollination to set berries.  Unfortunately, no one knows for sure and opinions are divided.  I'm of the belief that planting more than one you should get berry set.  However, many authorities believe that a male is needed to ensure berries are produced on the female.  I have yet to see male clones being offered or coming in labeled as so.  The only time to know for sure if it's male or female is to buy them at fruiting time and hope for the best.  Rather than getting stuck in the middle of the debate, check out this post from Cheryll Kinsley, Washington State University, 'viburnum revisited'.  You'll see how confusing the whole issue is.

Viburnum dilatatum - Linden Viburnum

This Asian introduced ornamental was brought into western gardens in the early 1800s, probably from the Swedish botanist, Carl Peter Thunberg. Thunberg was appointed chief surgeon to a Dutch trading post in Japan, but was stationed on a small island as movement of foreigners on the mainland was forbidden. However, he managed to trade his knowledge of European medicines with Japanese interpreters in exchange for plant materials. In 1776 he was finally allowed to accompany the director of the Dutch settlement to visit the Shogun of Edo (modern Tokyo). On route he was able to make significant collections within Japan, the first by any European. In Japan this plant is referred to Gamazumi, but common names include the Japanese Cranberry bush and Japanese Arrowwood, the same as our own Viburnum. In some ways they're all brothers from different mothers. The long straight shoots have been used to make arrow shafts while older, thicker branches are make into handles for tools. Berries are not edible but can be processed into jellies or made into a liquor. Birds don't favor the berries as much which allows them to retain fruits for longer periods. The two varieties that are commonly available in our area is 'Cardinal Candy' and 'Michael Dodge'.
Viburnum 'Cardinal Candy'

'Cardinal Candy' is another excellent from the Proven Winners line-up of plants. It was selected for its improved hardiness when compared to other V.dilatatum types for northern gardens. The bright red clusters of berries make for a stunning display in fall but in spring it is valued for its abundant white flowers that can measure 5 inches across. Its big attraction is that it doesn't require another V.dilatatum variety nearby to set fruit and will happily self pollinate. Also, it mature size of 5-6 foot, high and wide, makes it very desirable for most gardens, where it won't swallow up the whole yard.

Viburnum 'Michael Dodge'
'Michael Dodge' is another splendid introduction that originated out of Winterthur Gardens in Delaware, Maryland. Named in honor of the breeder who made the cross between two different types of Linden Viburnums, to produce a yellow berried version. Most Lindens only bear red berries so a yellow version is highly desirable. You won't find to many other plants with yellow berries! It can get large over time, up to 8-10 ft in height, and will need another Linden Viburnum to enable it to set fruit. However, its worth in the fall landscape, dripping in an abundance of glowing yellow berries, out weighs any negative points against it.

Viburnum setigerum - Tea Viburnum

The common name is a reflection of its use as a medicinal sweet tea made by Monks on Mount Omei, China. It was introduced by the great plant collector, Ernest Wilson in 1901, who I've mentioned in past posts, but who also was responsible for bringing the David Viburnum into cultivation.  The shrub matures to a multi-stemmed upright vase habit, reaching 8 to 10 ft height and spreading to a narrower 6 to 8 ft width.  However, it does lack sufficient growth to cover the bottom third of its base, so you'll need to either landscape around it with plants that can mask its bareness, or trim it to accentuate its form as a small tree.  Despite this minor negative, the fruit display makes up for its short comings with and impressive abundance of orange to red berries that can be prolific at some times.  For its berries, the Tea Viburnum is one of my top picks for its fall display, and definitely commands attention when fruits appear in the fall.  I have not come across any named varieties of the Tea Viburnum, but I do know that one exists for a orange berried form called 'Aurantiacum'.  Still, why would someone want to mess with perfection anyway.

Tea Viburnum - From 'althea in il'

With such a diversity within the group, its easy to find a Viburnum that fit your needs and desires.  Mostly, Viburnums are selected for their flowers but their worth in the fall landscape is equally as important. Viburnums are tough, durable and adaptable, making them an idea shrub for difficult locations.  So, next time you're in the market for a shrub with colorful fruits, take a look at one of these, you'll be pleasantly surprised!

Don't forget to read the first part of this series @ Damn good plants - Berrying Viburnums part 1