Viburnums truly are plants for all seasons. I’ve added half a dozen different kinds to my yard because I love their pink or white flowers in the spring, their pink, red, blue, or black berries summer through early winter, and outstanding fall color. Brandywine viburnum, pictured above is a type of possumhaw viburnum (I love that common name!). Those with more refined tastes may refer to it by its alternate common name, smooth witherod. This particular variety is known for its spectacular display of pink and blue berries. Mine is only in its second year, so hasn’t bloomed and fruited yet, but the fall color this year has been gorgeous. I’m hoping that by next year it will have some of its fragrant white flower clusters, and produce some berries. But I’d grow it for the fall color alone.
The American highbush cranberry viburnum (left) has white flowers in spring and red cranberry-like fruits from mid-summer into winter. Berries are tart, but edible, similar to its namesake fruit. Unless you’re a lover of pucker-producing fruits, it’s not likely to become your favorite, but the flavor is acceptable. Birds usually leave the berries alone until the fruits have frozen a few times. I’ve been told that winged wildlife like them best fermented on the shrub. This time of year, the rich red, three-lobed leaves set off the ripe fruits nicely.
Another viburnum with great fall color is the compact Korean spice viburnum (right). It kicks off the spring season with extremely fragrant clusters of pinkish white blooms that develop into red fruits which ripen black. Fall color is bright red with touches of yellow and orange, creating a warm glow from within the center of the shrub.
The doublefile viburnum (below) is sometimes mistaken for dogwood in the springtime with its large white blooms on horizontal branches. The flowers develop into red berries that ripen black. This time of year, it puts on another display in fiery hues. Because its leaves are covered in fine hairs, it lacks the glossy showiness of the Korean spice or possumhaw viburnums, but it puts on a nice show nonetheless.
Other viburnums in my yard are less showy this time of year. Leaves of Blue Muffin arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum), for example, turn subdued yellowish brown. Others, such as the lantanaphyllum viburnum (Viburnum X rhytidophylloides) are semi-evergreen, keeping their green color until their leaves drop.
I’ll keep on the lookout for other viburnums to add to the landscape. Although there’s not a lot of space left, I’ll find a way to cram in a few more of these showy shrubs because they are so attractive in several seasons, are easy to grow, and virtually trouble-free.
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