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You Can Grow That! May 2013: Fragrant viburnums

Viburnums, tulips, lilacs and other plants perfume the spring air. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

A good spring overloads the senses. Not only does the earth break out in eye-pleasing blooms, many of the flowers release delicious fragrance.

Until just a few days ago, the office, kitchen, bedroom, backyard and enclosed back porch have been perfumed by viburnums, incredibly easy-to-grow shrubs.

In a partly sunny location in the back of the yard are two Burkwood viburnums (Viburnum burkwoodii), an upright shrub that can reach 10 feet tall and 6 feet wide when grown in full sun. Mine are closer to 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide.

In their shadier location, the burkwoods have a more open growth. In full sun, the growth is much more dense. Although my burkwoods have fewer flowers in the shade than they would have in full sun, they still are loaded. This viburnum is semi-evergreen, retaining its foliage through winter, depending on the severity of the weather.

Outside the bedroom window and bordering the enclosed porch sits a Judd viburnum (V. x judii). This is a rounded, 6-foot tall and wide fragrant beauty with blue-green leaves that turn a deep red in fall and cling to the plant for several weeks of late season color. It prefers full sun, but tolerates light shade.

Like all spring bloomers, the viburnums’ flowers and fragrance can be rushed through their season with high temperatures in spring.

We all know about borrowed landscape views—the scenes created by a neighbor’s plants. Some of us also enjoy borrowed scents. A neighbor’s old fashion lilacs (Syringa vulgaris) have burst open, adding fragrant breezes to my living room.

Any day now my two ‘Miss Kim’ Manchurian lilacs (Syringa pubescens subsp. patula) will begin blooming outside the living room and the bedroom windows. These bloom a few weeks later than the old fashion lilacs. ‘Miss Kim’ also is not affected by the powdery mildew fungus disease that afflicts many traditional lilacs. It has decent fall color, too, with deep purple leaves.

And just a few days ago, the crabapples (Malus) were in full bloom at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The blooming branches created a large arch, which held the fragrance at nose level. I’d never noticed that crabapples were so fragrant.

These scents of the season reinforce the good sense of planting fragrant bulbs, perennials, annuals, trees or shrubs where you can enjoy their elusive attributes.

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