Enjoy the stunning floral displays of late

In recent weeks we’ve been enjoying stunning floral displays, and they’ve worked wonders in restoring our belief that summer is breaking through the gloom.

By Tom Pattinson
Saturday, 11 May, 2019, 14:41
Viburnum plicatum Mariesii is outstanding in a mixed border, with its large white flower heads. Picture by Tom Pattinson.

Examples abound of the contribution made by hardy perennial trees and shrubs.

The Alnwick Garden’s Taihaku Cherry Orchard, along with a diversity of mature, iconic varieties throughout the county, brought the momentum that continues in our current garden displays.

As the flowers give way to growth buds these gorgeous trees will photosynthesise and build up food reserves for next year, so any corrective pruning should be left until autumn dormancy to avoid sap loss.

Dazzling golden forsythia displays played their part in the show, but are now fading so the time is right for pruning.

Remove stems that have flowered down to a point where new growths are emerging and this will encourage their development into next year’s bloom-bearing wood.

Berberis darwinii is a prickly customer, with its defensive evergreen leaves.

One of several shrubs that will stop unwanted animal traffic passing through the garden and provide the ideal nesting bastion for birds, it also has attractive yellow clusters of flowers showing right now. These will eventually result in purple fruits that blackbirds love.

Viburnums are so accommodating in the garden. Apart from occasional pruning, they demand little more than a spot of sunlight and moisture.

Even before V. bodnantense ‘Dawn’ parts company with its leaves in autumn, the fragrant, pink flowers have appeared. Amazingly, they continue in surges until early April the following year. That’s the signal to step in with long-handled pruners and saw if necessary.

We’ve recently thinned out the stems of a mature specimen and reduced the height from three metres down to two.

Such action keeps it vigorous and productive of blooms, and we always take a dozen hardwood stem cuttings from its new growth in autumn to plant in the soil nearby.

Viburnum tinus is reliably evergreen and covered in white flower clusters (no fragrance) from autumn until late spring.

In keeping with bodnantense, it will grow as high as you allow it, and therefore needs pruning every few years.

I once decided to restructure part of the garden, and it involved removing tinus, which stood above eye-level. But it refused to budge so was sawn to ground, leaving a small stump. New growth followed, so don’t worry, it will take hard pruning.

A group of summer-flowering viburnums, all highly fragrant, have just picked up the baton of continuity.

V. Juddii has been covered in white blooms of tennis ball proportion in recent weeks, the scent drifting across the garden. V. carlesii and carlcephalum are similarly old favourites with the same modus operandi.

When it comes to structure there is one outstanding candidate for a substantial mixed border – Viburnum plicatum ‘Mariesii’. It has large, plate-like, white flower heads that sit almost horizontally on the shrub, which can grow to two metres and is amazing when viewed from an elevated position.