I will start with a tale of success.
One of the first shrubs to go into the garden was a viburnum. I can’t say that viburnums set my heart a’flutter, and some are downright dowdy, but they are useful, generally attractive and some have several seasons of interest. Viburnum plicatum is one of those that can reasonably called spectacular. Typically they have wide-spreading, almost horizontal branches which are iced with white flowers in late spring and there are sometimes red or black berries in autumn. A ‘double’ form, with wholly sterile flowers (V. plicatum forma plicatum), was introduced from Japan at about the same time (circa 1860) as the ‘normal’ form – V. plicatum forma tomentosum.
There are lots of cultivars, as would be expected from such an ornamental shrub. The most common are ‘Mariesii’ and ‘Lanarth’ and both are good. Most are large and spreading shrubs, usually 2m high and rather more across. As they mature they send up vertical shoots from the centre that then branch with horizontal shoots that flower in subsequent years. Older stems can be cut out after a few years to maintain vigour and enhance the structure of the plant.
I planted two and this is ‘Shasta’ which is a hybrid of forma tomentosum and ‘Mariesii’. It is supposed to have larger flowers than others and there are supposed to be a few sterile florets in among the central, small, fertile florets in the cluster. I can’t say that I can see any but perhaps they will come as it ages – or I have been done! The flowers are also supposed to be purer white than most and it is supposed to fruit better than most. It was introduced in 1979 in the USA.
All I can say is that I love it because it is in a fairly exposed site, it is doing well and the flowers have been trying to open since April. They have been partially formed for months and survived all the April frosts and are now opening in the pouring rain. I can ask for no more.
On a less happy note, I had no idea when my philadelphus ‘Minnesota Snowflake’ produced half a dozen flowers last year, that it was its swansong.
Philadelphus are not obvious choices for small gardens because they have one burst of glory and are then as much fun as a low fat trifle. But their moment of glory, when they fill the air with perfume, is enough for me to forgive them 11 months of poor effort. I need them in the garden. So this was planted two years ago. Last year it made the typical, strong, upright stems that established plants produce, though late summer winds snapped some off.
Unfortunately the bed where it is planted is one of the wetter in the garden, partly because, although it is dug and improved with organic matter, I have not yet sorted the edges and dug out ‘gutters’ to help drain the soil. I have paid the price, and so has the poor philadelphus.
It is a good example of how root damage kills plants. When a plant is waterlogged the roots literally drown. They can’t breathe and they die. As a result the plant gets no water and the growth will wilt. As is typical, when spring sprang the philadelphus started to grow, almost as though it was living on stored energy from last year. But when that ran out the roots just could not support the growth and it started to wilt.