Eric’s Pet Plant: Fragrant Viburnum (Viburnum carlesii) ‘Aurora’
I usually agree with Eric about the plants he chooses as pets, but sometimes we really think as one and this is one of those times. Viburnum carlesii is a must-have shrub if you are moved by fragrance. There are other viburnums with lovelier forms, with handsomer leaves, with added fall interest from bright berries, but no other plant in the genus can hold a candle to its perfume.
Fragrant Viburnum (Viburnum carlesii ‘Aurora’)
By Eric Larson
Fragrant Viburnum is well named. In early April, the red buds open to pink flowers, which change to white as they mature, releasing along the way one of spring’s most intoxicating aromas. These flower clusters are not the only reason to plant ‘Aurora’ Viburnum, but that one would be enough.
The genus Viburnum gets its name from the classical Latin name for one of its roughly 150 species, the European Viburnum, V. lantana. Our particular plant’s specific name is from W.R. Charles, who collected the species type where it is native, in Japan and Korea.
Viburnums are members of the Honeysuckle family, Caprifoliaceae, and all are either shrubs or small trees. Some species have been decimated by the Viburnum leaf beetle, but not our plant. In fact I can’t think of a more carefree shrub, since V. carlesii has no insect or disease problems to worry about.
If you look for the variety ‘Aurora,’ you don’t have to worry about pruning, either. The straight species will grow to 10 feet, but this selection stays nice and well-behaved, growing slowly to six or eight feet with a spread of four or five.
Another aspect of ‘Aurora’ that I truly appreciate is its fall color. It has a really nice wine-red to burgundy glow in October. Much more vibrant than the species’ typical dull red.
Plant Viburnums in full sun, in well-drained average garden soil. You can for sure count on fragrance from any V. carlesii, but fall color is pretty variable. This argues for choosing your plant at the local nursery (the species is widely available in the trade) in the fall, when you can see its “true colors.”
That said, you can plant in fall or spring, but make sure it’s near the garden or house entrance, where the fragrance will encourage visitors and family to stop and sniff. They are good cut flowers as well.
This 8 foot shrub is we don’t know how old. It was about this size when we got the place 20 years ago. I do prune it, in a halfhearted “meant to do that” way, and if I pruned it more it would bloom more, but although it’s hunkier than ‘Aurora’, it does, as Eric says, more or less take care of itself. Incidentally, the fall color is totally blah; I’m sure it was purchased in the spring.
To see and hear Eric holding forth on and in the garden, head on over to Gardenclips.com.