When I created the Winter Border last year here at Chartwell, there were many plants that I removed from the old border such as a few unproductive roses and wall-trained cherry trees. This fully hardy Viburnum however, (along with several Camellias and a huge Mahonia japonica), was always going to be kept right where it was! Despite having no real Winter interest, this Japanese Snowball Bush looks fantastic at this time of the year when it becomes plastered in these pure white, spherical flowers in dense terminal cymes. As these flowers age they can start to take on a pinkish tinge. Some of them can reach up to 8cm, or 3 inches, across. Stunning!
Although deciduous, when this Viburnum does come into leaf, the foliage is also well worth checking out. As the picture below shows, the leaves are essentially heart-shaped with a tapered pointed end. They are toothed and deeply veined and despite being mostly dark green in colour, often have tints of red and purple within the blade. Come the Autumn the leaves will turn a more obvious shade of red, extending the season of interest perfectly.
From the Adoxaceae family, this gorgeous shrub can tolerate sun or partial shade and grows best in the mythical “fertile, moist but well-drained soil” that we often hear about! Not fussy about pH, it grows well in acidic, alkaline or neutral soils too. There is no excuse for anyone not to try growing this plant as it is equally happy in sheltered or exposed sites and will give a great show in north, south, east or west-facing positions! It is generally pest-free, although can be prone to minor cases of leaf spot on older foliage in warm, wet Summer months. It tolerates hard, renovative pruning and can be propagated by softwood cuttings in Summer, something which I hope to carry out this year to make a few more of these beauties.
When I came to make up the new planting plans for the Winter Border, our old plan stated that this shrub was simply “Virburum sp.”. We have taken several plant samples for identification to RHS Wisley over the last couple of years and had no luck whatsoever in finding out exactly what they were. So this time we decided to do a bit of research ourselves. By going through a series of plant finder books and many websites, we came to the conclusion that our Viburnum was in fact Viburnum plicatum f. plicatum ‘Grandiflorum’. If you think you know otherwise however, we are happy to be pointed in the right direction, so please get in contact with us with your suggestions!