The sweet smelling Korean spice viburnum

I have a passion for plants with fragrant flowers; perhaps it goes back to my earlier days in our family home in New Delhi where, in the modest but well-kept garden, sweet smelling flowers could always be found. And now, after all these years, the passion has not subsided and one of the first features I look for in a plant before buying is fragrance.

So, not too long ago when on one my visits to Boulevard Flowers on Ruffin Mill Road, I accidentally saw an attractive shrub called Korean Spice Viburnum, the word “spice” sent my brain a signal, instantly; sure enough, the description on the tag indicated that the flowers are highly perfumed. Without the slightest hesitation, I purchased the shrub despite the fact we are pretty much short of growing spaces, as well as muscle power to dig holes.  But a space I did  find –  a cozy nook near the entrance of our back yard – and a nice planting hole we managed to dig.

Though the young healthy plant produced only a few flowers last spring, this year, I had to look over and over again to believe: Right at the onset of the season, the shrub was covered with innumerable intensely perfumed clusters of white flowers, each cluster made of many small ones. So fragrant are they that, at the peak of flowering season, every time I opened the window close to the area where the shrub is growing outside, the breeze wafted the delightful scent inside the room. In fact, one day soon after, as I was escorting some friends to the back yard, they immediately sensed the sweet scent even before noticing the blooms!

Viburnums, in general, are popular landscape plants because of the many assets they posses: attractive growth habit, pretty foliage which displays noticeable color changes in fall and, of course, the flowers which are often scented. While easy to grow, they prefer a moderately fertile, well-drained soil and exposure to either full or part sun.

The  Korean Spice Viburnum, (Viburnum carlesii), has truly proven to be a treasure and more care-free than I expected: the soil around the root zone is not very friendly, the location is hit by the hot afternoon sun in summer, and on top of it, I hardly ever water or fertilize the shrub. Interestingly, although the accompanying tag describes the species as being deciduous, ours retains great majority of the velvety leaves in winter. The flowering period, however, is not very long; as I began preparing this column, the shrub was covered with the pure white flowers which are pretty much gone now, hastened partially due to the unusual cold temperatures, breeze and the rain. Nevertheless, while in bloom, a short but sweet pleasure a Korean Spice Viburnum is, literally!

Gita’s Tip of the Month: Once the danger of frost has passed, summer-flowering bulbs can be planted in between perennials, annuals or wherever the heart desires to enjoy the colorful display or to use as cut flowers for indoor enjoyment.

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