In a shrub border, viburnums stand out in the spring. The elegant creamy-white flowers of V. plicatum var. tomentosum 'Summer Snowflake' light up the landscape.
Photo/Illustration: Steve Silk
Viburnums are usually shrubs, but their habits vary. A few dwarf varieties, such as Viburnum opulus 'Nanum', are under 3 feet. Others, such as Seibold viburnum (V. seiboldii), may grow up to 20 feet tall. Most viburnums also have a full spreading habit. Some viburnums can become medium-size trees, especially if they are pruned. Viburnums excel as specimen plants or as anchors in mixed borders. You won't find a more versatile group of shrubs for hedges or for massing in groups, since viburnums hold their own in every season. Some viburnums, such as Prague viburnum (V. 'Pragense'), are evergreen. Others, such as leatherleaf viburnum (V. rhytidophyllum), are semi-evergreen in colder climates, losing their leaves when temperatures dip below 10° F.
A few viburnums can be grown as standards and used in various settings. A viburnum standard can create height in the back of a border or in pots on each side of a terrace entrance, underplanted with annuals. Varieties that look good as standards are: V. plicatum var. tomentosum 'Newport', V. carlesii 'Compactum', and V. X bodnantense 'Dawn'. The latter's late-winter blooms provide a wonderful display.