Humble Viburnum
Andrea Bellamy |

This little guy was one of my first perennial purchases. At the time, I didn’t know much about gardening, so I asked the lady at the nursery for suggestions.

My requirements: must do well in a container and in shade, look good most of the year, and not require too much work. She suggested the Viburnum tinus you see above. I’m not sure which cultivar it is – the tag is long gone (and the RHS plant finder lists 32 cultivars) but for years I felt disappointed by it. It was gangly and sad, and never flowered or produced berries. I labeled it a dud, but nonetheless hauled it from house to house when I moved.

Finally, I ended up with a south-facing backyard. I decided to prune it back, eliminating all the gangly bits, and placed the pot at the foot of the steps. “This is your last chance,” I told it.

I guess it wasn’t happy in the shade after all, because sure enough, it performed brilliantly. Pink flowers in early spring all through summer, followed by glossy deep-purple berries in fall through winter. Sure, some may consider it boring, a ubiquitous landscaper’s shrub, but I’m thrilled with it. Especially in winter when it looks most lovely. And mostly, just because it reinforces an eternal principle of the garden: give it what it wants and it will reward you. Or, you might say: right plant, right place.

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