Resilient to frost, rain and snow, winter-flowering viburnum is invaluable for lifting our sprits during winter with welcome scent and flowers when there is very little to admire in the garden.
These evergreen or deciduous shrubs, which are fully hardy, have fragrant clusters of cream, pink or white flowers on bare branches or in flat heads among leaves. Viburnum can reach a height of 3m and a spread of 2m.
To make the most of the wonderfully scented flowers plant in a moist, well-drained border close to an entrance or path in sun or partial shade. Or set one in a border with other winter-flowering shrubs, plants with berries and evergreens to give the perfect background to these amazing blooms. Make sure you can see the flowers from your windows.
Viburnum is easy to care for. All you need to do is trim back any untidy shoots after flowering. You can cut out older branches if the plant is getting too dense to encourage more growth of the young wood that will bear more flowers. Once it is established, you could use your viburnum as a frame for a clematis to romp over so that you have flowers all year round. The plant will. however, produce flowers most abundantly during mild spells. Display some sprigs in your house; the flowers will last a long time.
All the deciduous forms look lovely with early bulbs, hellebores and mahonia. One of my favourites is 'Dawn'. Its spectacular small clusters of dark pink flowers which fade to white are produced on bare stems from November to February.
Another good choice would be ‘Eve Price’ which flowers from December until April. This variety can also be planted in a container. It has dark evergreen foliage with pink flower buds that open to tiny, star-shaped white flowers. These are followed by small dark blue-black fruits.
Another favourite is ‘Gwenllian’. While not quite as compact as ‘Eve Price’, the combination of deep pink buds opening to blushed white flowers followed by generous blue-black berries – often all on the plant at the same time in winter – is eye-catching.
'Charles Lamont' is similar to ‘Dawn’ but with brighter pink flowers or try ‘Deben’ which has white flowers flushed faintly with pink. Viburnum grandiflorum, a more compact shrub, also has pink-flushed white flowers from winter to early spring. Viburnum foetens, a slightly smaller variety, flowers from late autumn through to early spring with pink-tinged white or pure white flowers.
Jobs for October & November
- Divide campanula, asters, geraniums and phlox now but it is probably best to leave hellebores and peonies alone.
- Keep containers going until the first frost. Then plant winter-flowering pansies which will flower in mild weather and again in the early spring.
- Shorten the long shoots of late-flowering shrubs, such as buddleja davidii, but finish the pruning in the spring.
- Plant hyacinths and large-flowered anemones and lift, divide and replant crocosmias.
- If the weather is mild your roses will flower well into the autumn so continue to deadhead. Remove only the flower and not long stemmed sections as in summer.
- This is a good time to plant new hardy climbers so that a good root system can develop in warm, moist soil.
- Finish planting tulip and hyacinth bulbs in November for flowering in the spring. Lily bulbs can now be planted in pots. Lift begonias before the first frost and dahlias and gladioli after the first frost.
- Early winter is the time to prune winter jasmine, ornamental vines and wisteria.
- Leave penstemons until the spring, apart from deadheading, as the stems will protect the crowns from the cold.