There are two main features we require of winter shrubs: flowers and fragrance. They have to stand the worst the winter can throw at them, and if their foliage is attractive and evergreen or if their autumn berries hang on into winter, so much the better. Viburnums fit the bill and there is quite a choice. They fall into three distinct groups and it would be no bad thing if we had one plant from each. For fragrant flowers, the forms of twiggy and deciduous Viburnum x bodnantense stand out. The four or five varieties available are similar and you’ll be pleased with any named form. The pink buds open to scented white flowers at any time from November to March and occasionally all the way through. Evergreens form another group and V. tinus, one of the toughest shrubs known to gardeners, is a dependable winter essential. I prefer ‘Gwenllian’ for producing flowers and berries together, but ‘Spirit’ is neater. Varieties that hold their berries into winter make up the third group. They bring a different style and several colours, but you can never tell how long the berries will last before the birds finish them off.
Position Best in full sun, but happy in a little dappled shade. Hardiness All are hardy, but deciduous flowering types are best shaded from winter morning sun. Height x Spread 2-4m x 1.5-4m Care Most soils are suitable, but avoid waterlogged and parched conditions, and prepare well, adding compost or soil improver. Pruning is usually unnecessary but, if their size needs reducing, make your cuts after flowering in early spring. Mulch with weed-free organic matter in autumn. Where to buy Burncoose Nurseries, burncoose.co.uk, 01209 860316; Crocus, crocus.co.uk, 01344 578111; Larch Cottage Nurseries, larchcottage.co.uk, 01931 712404
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