For those of you that live near the seashore or a lake, it is difficult to select plants that will tolerate the growing conditions and extreme weather conditions during all four seasons until now. One of my favorite families of shrubs is the viburnum, because of the flowers, the fall foliage, and the beautiful fall/winter berries--but now there is even more to encourage you to plant this family of plants in your garden. The original Arrowwood viburnum has been a standard for those growing conditions, so let's begin to talk about the plant.
The plant is very durable and will tolerate temperatures from 20 to 40 degrees below zero during the winter. The plant will grow in the shape of a large rounded mound with spreading branches that arch gracefully down to the ground. It will grow 6 to 8 feet tall; if your soil is good and the plant protected from the harsh wind, it can grow even taller--often reaching 10 to 12 feet tall if not pruned. The plant will spread 6 to 15 feet wide, depending on where it is planted. The foliage is glossy dark green from May to mid-September, then it will change to a beautiful red wine color as the colder weather arrives. The leaves will grow 2 to 4 inches long and 1 to 2 inches wide, resembling rhododendron leaves. The plant is deciduous, so it will lose the foliage during October.
In May, delicate clusters of tiny creamy white flowers develop on the tip of the branches--almost covering the plant most years. The flower cluster range from 2 to 4 inches in diameter and the flower cluster is flat. The cluster is made up of many smaller flower clusters that resemble snowflakes on the plant, and they will stay in bloom from May into June most years. In July and August the flowers will form clusters of deep green round fruit and when the weather begins to cool off these berries begin to change to blue –black fruit under 1/2 an inch in diameter. When ripe, they become a favorite food of birds and often the plants are stripped of the berries very quickly because of their rich taste.
This is a great plant as a specimen in a full sun to part shade garden. Use the plant as a background for your perennials, annuals, or your rose garden. If you have a pine tree grove on your property, plant viburnum on the edge of the tree line or under the trees, if the branches have been pruned high off the ground letting sunlight hit the ground during the day. When in flower, the plant will attract butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden for extra interest. The plants can be planted on the side of a steep bank to help control erosion problems, if you apply a 2 to 3 inch layer of bark mulch or pine needles around them until they are well established. They make a wonderful display as a mass planting or you can plant the shrubs 4 to 6 feet apart to create a thick privacy hedge and noise barrier. Because it is salt tolerant, it will even do well planted near the road; winter salt and sand will not bother this plant.
When you plant, be sure to choose a location with well-drained soil and a location with no standing water during the winter and spring seasons. The better you prepare the soil before planting, the better the plant will grow for you but it will still grow in a medium to average soil—just with less flowers and fruit. Add animal manure, compost, seaweed kelp or the new coir soil conditioners; if the soil is on the sandy side; add Soil Moist Granules to help hold extra water during the first couple of years as the plant is getting established in your garden. Once the plant becomes established, it will become drought tolerant if you cover the ground around the plant with bark mulch, compost, or pine needles 3 inches thick, and this will also keep out weeds from growing around the plant.
If the plant is getting too large, it should be pruned as the flowers begin to fall from the plant in June and at that time you can cut the plant back by back by 20% but you will lose the fruit for the fall. You can also prune in the early spring before the plant begins to leaf out and flower by as much as 1/3 to 1/2 but you will lose the flowers and fruit for that year--it's your choice. With both types of pruning, the flowers and fruit will return the following year.
Now, this is a nice plant--but the plant breeders have played with this plant and have developed THREE new hybrids available this fall at your local nursery or garden center. All three are part of the Proven Winners collection, so you know they are good.
The first is called Viburnum Dentatum 'Blue Muffin'--and this plant is known for the feast it will create for your birds. This new hybrid is a compact selection and will only grow 5 to 7 feet tall and just as wide when mature. It is also the hardiest of the three, tolerating temperatures down to minus 40 degrees. 'Blue Muffin' is the plant you need in your garden if you want to attract birds to your garden. The fruit is good for birds (but not for humans) and is deer resistant. Because of its size, it is easier to add to your garden because, unlike other varieties of viburnum, it does stay smaller.
The foliage is also different looking and is coarse to the touch. The edges of the leaf are serrated like the teeth of a saw; the shape is more oval, larger growing that the original plant and glossy green. You will also notice many lines or horizontal veins running from a center vein in the center of the leaf. The fall color is also different and can range from shades of yellow-orange to burgundy-purple on the plant. The unique character of this plant is that each plant can be different in the fall for color, so if leaf color is important to you, choose the plant in the fall when it has begun to color up with the cooler weather.
The flowers are a flat cluster of small creamy white flowers; each flower cluster is made up of small individual flower clusters like the original plant but they tend to grow wider and more open. When the berries form on the plant, they form in groups of 10 to 15 dusty blue berries that are less than 1/4 inch in diameter, like a pea. There can be as many as 5 to 10 fruit clusters that will make up the main berry cluster, making the plant showier. If this variety is planted with other varieties of viburnum, you will have more flowers because of cross pollination between the plants.
This plant will grow in most soils as long as they are well drained and away from standing water. Soil pH is not a problem with this plant for flowers and berry production and it will also grow in heavy clay-like soil. Of all the viburnums available today, this is the most durable! Prune the plant in the summer when it has finished flowering to control the size and shape of the plant. The flower buds form on old wood so prune any branches that have no berries on them so you can enjoy the fruit in the fall. Fertilize every spring with a slow release organic fertilizer like Plant Tone or Dr. Earth Shrub Fertilizer with pro-Biotic to encourage new shoots that will develop at the base of the plant and help to thicken the body of the plant.
Like the original, use for privacy hedges, noise barriers, and individual plants in a natural or wild setting for its flowers during early summer, dusty blue flowers in the fall and unusual fall color. Also, the flower does have an unusual smell and is a great source of nectar for butterflies. The small berries are perfect for attracting songbirds. No garden is complete without at least one!
The next hybrid is called 'Brandywine' viburnum. This plant produces berries that are considered the most beautiful berries in the plant kingdom. This is also another hybrid that will stay smaller than the original plant--growing 5 to 6 feet tall and just as wide. It is not quite as hardy, but will tolerate 20 degrees below zero. The berries will grow up to 1/2 inch in diameter, and the plant will produce large clusters filled with many brightly colored berries. The fruits begin with a deep green color during July and August but as the weather cools off they quickly change to shades of vivid pink and then a deep dusty blue. The fruit looks like a blueberry, with its dimple on the tip of the fruit and best of all, it will have both pink and bright blue berries on the plant at the same time for extra beauty. The skin of the berry does have a dusty look to it while parts of the berry are shiny looking giving a wonderful contrast to the fruit.
'Brandywine' viburnum will flower in April and May--a bit earlier than other varieties--and the flowers are also creamy white in color. The flower cluster is more rounded, grows 2 to 4 inches wide, and the flower is showy and fragrant. The flowers have a lot of nectar to them, attracting butterflies and hummingbirds when in bloom. When plants are well established, the plant can be almost covered with these wonderful flowers. This plant will set fruit without another variety of viburnum in your yard area--a plus for smaller gardens and yards.
The foliage is like the original plant; long and narrow like a rhododendron leaf and very shiny. The leaves will grow up to 4 inches long and are deep green with some raised veins on them for contrast. In the fall the showy glossy green leaves will change color to a wonderful maroon-red color and stay on the plant well into October--giving the plant a "WOW" factor. The berries will remain on the plant even after the foliage has fallen from the plant--and some years these berries will remain on the plant well into the winter. They are eaten by song birds but during the winter months provide you with excellent winter color.
No insect or disease problems with this variety and little to no maintenance is needed, except for occasional pruning to control the size and shape of the plant in your garden. You can use this viburnum in foundation planting around your home, in a perennial and shrub border, privacy hedges, noise barriers, and it will do very well when planted along the road, as it will tolerate road salt and windy areas. The plant will do best in a well-drained soil but will tolerate moist soil or even boggy planting conditions--unlike other varieties.
Fertilize in the spring, prune when the flowers finish flowering to control size, and in cold climates, cover the base of the plant with bark mulch or pine needles to control weeds and help retain soil moisture during hot, dry summers. If you were to rate this plant it would get 5 stars for all it will do in your garden.
The third new variety, 'Cardinal Candy' viburnum, is known for its heavy crop of shiny scarlet fruit in late summer that lasts into the fall. This hybrid is very hardy; it will tolerate minus 30 degrees and will do very well near the ocean or lake with lots of wind on the plant. It does grow larger than the other two hybrids--6 to 8 feet tall and just as wide. But you can prune the plant to control the size easily. Prune after the flowering cycle or early in the spring if the plant needs a major haircut to control the size of the plant. The plant will grow very dense and is freer branching and bushier growing. It also tends to grow more upright but does keep its rounded shape on the top of the plant.
The flowers are creamy white and showy, producing large large rounded flower clusters up to 6 inches wide and tall on the tip of most of the branches. The flowers will last on the plant for 4 to 6 weeks, like most other viburnums, and the flower stems are thick and strong to hold the fruit upright on the plant. The flowers are fragrant and filled with nectar-attracted butterflies and hummingbirds while in bloom in your garden. The plant flowers from May into June.
When the flowers fade in late June the plant will produce large quantities of bright red berries. The number and quality of the berries that this new hybrid makes is remarkable. The berries will last long into the fall until the birds eat them--but they are not edible by humans. The individual fruits are under 1/2 an inch in diameter but the fruit cluster is up to 6 inches across in a mound, making the plant very showy and lasting on the plant well after the foliage has fallen from the plant. Some years, if birds are not active in your yard, the fruit can last until spring on the plant. This hybrid does not need a second plant as a pollinator to produce fruit like the 'Blue Muffin' does.
The foliage is a broad-oval shape and is much wrinkled with many rows of sunken veins on the leaf. It is also dark green and has coarse teeth like a saw blade on the edges. In the fall, the leaves turn a bright russet red color, making the plant very visible in your garden like the "Burning Bush," almost, except that it has large clusters of bright red shiny fruit all over the plant.
The 'Cardinal Candy' will grow best in a moist soil that is slightly acidic but it will grow in most soils if they are conditioned before planting. The more organic matter like animal manure, compost, seaweed kelp, or garden coir you add to the soil, the better the plant will do in the garden. Fertilize in the spring with a slow release organic fertilizer like Plant Tone or Dr. Earth Shrub and Tree fertilizer with Pro biotic. The plant is easy to grow as long as the soil is well drained and it is planted in a location in your yard with full sun to a bit of late-day shade. Always add 2 to 3 inches of bark mulch, compost or pine needles around the plant as a much to help keep moisture in the ground during hot, dry summers and to control weeds.
The plant is very strong and has no serious insect or disease problems. 'Cardinal Candy' is also very deer resistant, even when planted in a woodland-type garden. You will love this plant in your shrub border with evergreens like holly and rhododendrons, because of the flowers and bright red fruit it produces. Use this plant in your foundation planting for color from spring through fall. If you're looking to create a privacy screen or hide your neighbor's yard, this is your plant when planted in a row like a hedge. Also a great plant to use to kill road noise, to divide property instead of using a wooden fence and to create a background for a perennial or rose garden.
If you live on a wooded lot and want color, this is your plant; if you want winter color in your garden, this is your plant--and if you want a plant that looks like it just belongs there, no matter what time of the year it is, this is your plant. Enjoy!
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