Many gardens are being brightened by Viburnum x bodnantense right now and the mild spell works very well for them. Although the buds are frost-resistant, the open flowers are easily damaged by hard frost and a week of mild weather sees a flush of flowers open to perfection. Along with the mass of colour this hardy shrub also fills the air with pleasant fragrance. In an up-and-down winter the flowers open in flushes from November to March but I have to say that this year most buds have patiently waited until now to open so, if the weather does not get too frosty, I will enjoy a contracted but spectacular season.
The observant among you may have noticed that the flowers in the photo above are not all the same. There are two different cultivars, both Viburnum x bodnantense but the one on the left is ‘Dawn’ and the one on the right is ‘Charles Lamont’.
Viburnum x bodnantense is the name given to a group of hybrids that are a cross of V. fragrans and V. grandiflorum. The cross was first made in 1933 by Charles Lamont, Assistant Curator at the RBG Edinburgh. He raised four seedlings but was not keen on them so didn’t bother to propagate them. In the same year the same cross was made at Bodnant garden in North Wales and ten seedlings were raised. One of these was named ‘Dawn’ (below) and not only is it the ‘Type’ of the hybrid but it is by far the most popular cultivars. It gained an Award of Merit in 1947. The plant is upright at first but the tall stems, which can reach 3m, arch with age so a mature plant can be 3m x 3m. The buds are deep pink but the flowers open paler, though they are still pink. The anthers are pink too. ‘Deben’ is another popular form which is almost pure white with just a slight pink flush. It was raised by Notcutts. Like other white-flowered plants it suffers badly when the flowers are frosted, the plant being splattered with dead, brown flowers which always show up worse among white flowers than pink.
Much less common is ‘Charles Lamont’ (below). I planted this with the express purpose of evaluating them against each other so, many years later, here are the results! This is one of Charles Lamont’s seedlings and despite his obvious disappointment with his little seedlings, this one was later considered good enough to name and some think that it is a better plant than ‘Dawn’. For years I have puzzled over descriptions of ‘brighter pink’ but apart from having more white in the flowers, the pink shade is a bit less ‘dirty’ and the effect is like the prettiest apple blossom. The stamens are pale yellow. It is also reported that this produces more flowers than ‘Dawn’ but I feel this is hard to judge because so much depends on pruning, age of plant and aspect. Neither is shy to bloom. I would hesitate to be definitive since the two plants are not side-by-side but I would suggest that ‘Charles Lamont’ has a slightly more elegant habit.
So which should you plant? Well, unless you make an effort, you will probably only find ‘Dawn’ and every garden needs a Viburnum x bodnantense. If you can find ‘Charles Lamont’ and you do have a choice then I would pick that, not necessarily because it is better but because it is just as good and it might encourage nurseries to stock something different.
And the answer to yesterday’s Sunday puzzler was:
That gives you I T N T S O F T O and M
Rearrange those to make Mottisfont (Abbey)