When I went to Horticulture school in Vancouver we started in September. The largest and most challenging part of the curriculum was learning the 300 new plants. Learning to identify plants in the winter with no leaves, flowers or fruit was for the most part a new experience for all of us. After learning 20 new plants a week for weeks on end with nary a bloom or deciduous leaf in sight it was an absolute delight to find there really were some that dared to bloom in the depths of winter here. The first plant we actually studied when it was in bloom was Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’.
Bodnant Viburnum has a most interesting history. It has two already distinguished parents being; Viburnum grandiflorum(the pollen supplier) which is said to have lent it’s foliage and Viburnum farreri(formerly known as fragrans) which contributed it’s wonderful fragrance. This cross was originally done by Charles Lamont at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh in 1933. He didn’t think much of the resulting batch of seedlings and never propagated them. In 1934-5 the same cross was done at Bodnant Gardens and several forms of this crop are the ones we have come to know and love.
Bodnant Gardens is an 80 acre treasure trove of plant delights. It is famous for introducing many fine Rhododendron and Magnolias into cultivation. This was the ancestral property of Henry Duncan McLaren, 2nd Baron of Aberconway was an important contributor to horticulture and garden plant development in the 20th century
Wonderful clones were named, the first being ‘Dawn’ with pink buds opening to a paler pink blossom, next was ‘Deben’ which is a paler color and said to have a more graceful form. Finally a pure white form was named to honor ‘Charles Lamont’ after he died.
Bodnant viburnums bloom over a long period through winter and are at their peak at the end of January and into early February. This is the period which which these plants shine, during the summer they are background fillers for the most part. These are easy plants to grow requiring moist well drained soil. The best blooming is produced in dappled to full sun.
They grow to a substantial shrubs of 6-10ft(2-3m) height and 7ft(2m) width. For winter blooming shrubs they are very hardy and tolerate tempetures down to -15 to 20c (zones 5 though 8). They take well to pruning which should be done soon after they have finniished blooming. These plants can be used several ways, I have seen them well used as specimens, in mixed shrub borders and as hedging which has winter interest. They of course are mainly planted in gardens for winter interest.
For a treat you should take a blooming branch inside and enjoy the sweet spicy scent filling your house. This is what I did when i was in school and have loved the scent ever since.
Links Relatiing to this Article:
Everything you might want to know about Viburnum x bodnantense and how it came into being.
H.D. McLaren, 2nd Baron of Aberconway
Our Lady of Assumption Church at Brentwood Bay is where most of these pictures were taken. it is a spectacular location.
Bodnant Garden near Conwy Castle.
Until we meet again in the garden……