The Fragrant Viburnum – Origins

The fragrant viburnum is a distinctive, tall shrub which may grow as high as ten feet. If grown in full sun and exposure it is very erect, but in a thicket its branches will have a more spreading, and drooping effect. These branches have a tendency to root wherever they touch the ground.

The wood is firm, and the rough bark a dark brown in color. Foliage is deep bronzy-green, oval, toothed and rough, particularly attractive when new, and lasting in good condition until ripened by frost. Its fall color is not remarkable. The wood is very hardy; only once in some 20 years observation have I known it to be winterkilled, and the same winter killed apple trees as well. Insects do not appear to trouble this viburnum. I have heard only one report of excessive aphis injury. However, it must have perfect drainage to be happy. I have been unable to grow it on wet soil. No other soil factor seems important, though it prefers a pH of 6 or above.

Viburnum flowering in the landscape

In 1921, Amos Perry, famous English nurseryman, offered small plants of this fragrant viburnum. It had been sent to England from China by Reginald Farrer. Found wild only in one small, isolated section of the Chinese hill country, Viburnum fragrans was a highly prized ornament of almost every temple and palace yard.

Imported plants from Mr. Perry that year, but they were eventually lost. In the meantime, it had been established in the Arnold Arboretum, and Franklin B. Mead of Fort Wayne, Indiana, had also obtained both Viburnum fragrans and Viburnum fragrans alba. Through his desire to increase these plants cuttings came into many others hands. The rest is a part of landscape plant history.

By F Abbey

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