Driving around the state the last few weeks, I’ve been struck by the beauty of Doublefile
viburnums. These large, white flowering shrubs, look very much like dogwoods in bloom, with horizontal branches loaded with flowers. I think they are even fuller and more floriferous than the dogwoods. They bloom after the dogwoods have finished, in late May.
Like the dogwoods, the Doublefile viburnums turn wine-red in autumn and produce red
fruit in summer that changes to black. Birds enjoy the fruit. The plants bloom well in the shade, though not as profusely as they do in full sun.
Because they’re so large, they make a good screen, but they do need plenty of elbow
room. Doublefile viburnums get eight to 10 feet tall and nine to 12 feet wide, so remember that when planting a small shrub and give them room to reach their perfect form.
I especially like the Doublefile viburnum variety ‘Summer Snowflake’. It’s smaller in
height and width than the species. Proportionately, the flowers aren’t as large either, but they are very numerous and look like lacecap hydrangea blooms. Summer Snowflake blooms in tiers, like a wedding cake. I can easily imagine someone getting married in front of a blooming specimen.
An added bonus is that after the first prolific flowering, Summer Snowflake repeats its
bloom, though not as lavishly. Catalog hype says it blooms all summer, but that’s not so. The shrub has a cycle of bloom that repeats a few times over the gardening season.
Friends tell me that Summer Snowflake produces berries, but I don’t recall seeing any on
my plant. I now have three planted in the same bed, so I’m hoping that some pollination will occur.
Another spectacular white spring bloomer is the Japanese Tree Lilac. Once the French
hybrid lilacs are finished, this large shrub or small tree starts its show. The flowers are
enormous, six to 12 inches long and six to 10 inches wide, and are intensely fragrant. They smell nothing like the traditional lilac but have the sweetness of privet hedge flowers.
I bought a small one-gallon Japanese Tree Lilac over 10 years ago and planted it in a
tight spot. A rapid grower, I soon realized my mistake. One fall, after it dropped its leaves, we moved it to the hillside above my house. Now we have a good view of the tree lilac from our kitchen window.
It probably has 50 blooms on it, as I write this, and is a good ten feet tall. It will reach 20
to 30 feet at maturity and will get about 15 to 20 feet wide. The grass has been left to grow long on this hillside, but when my husband saw the tree lilac in bloom, he mowed a path to it. He loves the scent of the flowers and cut big bunches of them for a huge bouquet, now gracing our living room. The house has a fresh, sweet smell from the flowers, not cloying or overpowering.
In addition to the bloom, the tree has attractive cherry-like bark, and unlike other lilacs, is
highly resistant to powdery mildew, the disfiguring disease that turns lilac leaves gray. The leaves do not color up in the fall, the tree’s only drawback.
Another great white spring shrub is about to bloom in many West Virginia gardens. The
old fashioned bridal wreath spiraea, another eight foot shrub, will shortly be showing off its
dainty button flowers on arching branches.
With these three in bloom, spring is a great time for a garden wedding.