It’s a dreary day here in southwestern Connecticut (zone 6), but still my garden is shining. Thanks in part to one (actually two) of my favorite shrubs, Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum. That’s a botanical mouthful for double-file viburnum.
I love the way their bright white flowers brighten my border. Even on a brilliant sunny day when other flowers and shrubs shine, the flowers of doublefile viburnum steal the show. You’ll notice how the double-file on the left is smaller than the one on the right. That is not a trick of the camera angle. They were both planted on the same day about 10 years ago but the one of the right gets a few hours more sun each day. Now you can see why gardening books give a size range for mature shrubs!
One of the characteristics of a double-file viburnum that makes it so interesting is its flowers. Here’s a close up view. They look almost like the flowers of a lacecap hydrangea. The double row of flowers helps to highlight the horizontal branching pattern of this shrub. It almost looks like it’s standing at attention with its arms outstretched ready to get measured for a suit!
But these are no ordinary flowers. They sit up above the leaves, almost as if they are floating several inches above the branch. So even though doublefile viburnum is a large shrub with coarse-textured leaves, when it’s in flower it looks light and airy. The flowers typically last 3 – 4 weeks in my garden. In the fall, small berries appear but they are not overly ornamental. The leaves turn a deep purple in the autumn before falling off for the winter.
Double-file viburnums are not overly picky about site conditions. They grow in both full sun and full shade but remember mature size will be affected. Double-file viburnums like moist, well-drained soil and can be used as a specimen or would make a beautiful screen if planted in mass.
If you don’t have room for a full size double-file in your garden, try one of these vareties that are smaller are maturity:
- Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum Dart’s Red Robin’ – approx. 5′ x5′
- Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum ‘Newport’ – approx. 6′ x 6′
- Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum ‘Shoshoni’ – approx. 5′ x 8′
- Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum ‘Summer Snowflake’ – a reblooming variety that matures to 5′ x 5′