Tra la, it’s May

The hedgerows in England are coloring up – with colors of green and white.  One of the lovliest hedgerow shrub is Viburnum opulus, known in the States as the high-bush cranberry and in Europe as the Guelder rose.  Its flowers appear like small lacecap hydrangeas, with a ring of sterile florets surrounding tiny true flowers.  The much-loved cultivar ‘Roseum’ or ‘Sterile’ – the snowball bush – doesn’t hold a candle to the straight species, as far as I’m concerned. It goes no further than globs of flowers, and so the late-summer berries that decorate hedgerows and feed the wildlife are lacking in our gardens.

We see another viburnum with globs of flowers – and more beautiful than ‘Roseum’ – on our U.K. travels.  Viburnum plicatum f. plicatum ‘Grandiflorum’.  Yes, it’s a cultivar of what’s called the doublefile viburnum.  

Viburnum 'Grandiflorum'

Viburnum 'Grandiflorum'

Best spotting:  Branklyn Garden  in Perth, Scotland – there’s still time for you to get there, because it won’t bloom for another month.


            It’s easy to see where those viburnums get their cultivar names; sometimes it’s not so easy to figure it out.  I have the fabulous Viburnum ‘Onondaga’, which is not quite blooming yet.  For a couple of years, I thought it was some Japanese cultivar; then, we went to New York, and I discovered it’s the name of an American Indian tribe (and lake).  Live and learn!

Best accessory for garden travel in May:  a raincoat, unlined (better to layer) with a hood that can be cinched.  You don’t want to wear a hat that flies off in the wind or an umbrella that turns itself inside out.  I need a new raincoat, and so am considering the mesh-lined trench coat from LL Bean.  Not the full-length version – it’s just to easy to drag that through the mud – but I like the ¾ version.


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