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Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’

Viburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn'

There are few outdoor plants that flower from autumn through to spring and hardly any that match Viburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn'. This strong-growing upright shrub can reach 3m (10ft) in height. The small clusters of heavily scented flowers fade from pink to white and are most abundantly produced during milder periods. You can find it at Rosemoor near the bridge by the lake.

Vital statistics

Common name
Bodnant viburnum
Family
Caprifoliaceae
Height & spread
3m x 2m (10ft by 6ft)
Form
Long-lived, upright, deciduous shrub
Soil
Moist, well-drained, deep, rich loamy soil
Aspect
Full sun to partial shade
Hardiness
Hardy throughout the British Isles

Viburnum

The genus Viburnum contains about 200 evergreen and deciduous shrubs and small trees, mainly from wooded areas of northern temperate regions, but extending to Malaysia and South America. 

Different viburnums are grown for their flowers, fruit and foliage. Most have white flowers, some of them very fragrant, and brightly coloured fruits. The fruits of Viburnum are usually small and spherical, and usually black, blue or red but V. opulus 'Xanthocarpum', a cultivar of the guelder rose, bears bright yellow berries. Many of the deciduous viburnums such as V. dentatum also provide rich autumn colour.

Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’

This beautiful hybrid, is a deciduous shrub with burnished bronze foliage in autumn and exquisitely fragrant flowers from late autumn into early spring. It earns its place in any garden, as it flowers freely all winter. The flowering season is usually stated to be from mid-October until March, but the dense clusters of sweetly scented, rose-tinted flowers often start appearing earlier while the leaves are still on, and can continue past Easter.

In mild spells it is a spectacular sight, very cheering on a winter's day. The flowers are generally frost resistant but even if they do get frosted, more soon open within a few days. Cut a few sprigs for the house - as cut flowers they last a long time.

V. x bodnantense is a medium to large shrub with a strong upright habit when young, later arching outwards gracefully. A sunny site is best but it can also tolerate dappled shade - in too much shade it will just grow towards the light. As it flowers on bare stems, it is best planted against a green background (such as hedging) to show off its beautiful clusters of flowers, or mixed in with other coloured stems.

The cross of Viburnum farreri (formerly V. fragrans) and V. grandiflorum was originally made by Charles Lamont, the Assistant Curator at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh in 1933. He didn't rate the resulting plants as being any better than their parents, so did not propagate them. In 1934 and 1935, the same cross was done at Bodnant, hence the derivation of the name. 'Dawn' was the first cultivar to be named, 'Deben' was another and, after he died, 'Charles Lamont' was also named in honour of the original raiser.

Viburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn' has dark pink flowers that age to white, strongly flushed pink. V. x bodnantense 'Charles Lamont' is similar, but the flowers are a purer, brighter pink.

Cultivation

  • Viburnums are excellent plants for a woodland garden or shrub border.
  • The winter flowering species should ideally be planted where their flowers can be displayed to maximum effect in winter, with an evergreen hedge behind to act as a foil. Alternatively, plant them where the fragrance can be appreciated, beside a frequently used path.
  • Grow them in moist but well-drained conditions in deep, rich, loamy soil in sun or partial shade.
  • Honey fungus and leaf spot can be problematic.

Propagation

  • Take softwood cuttings taken in early summer for deciduous viburnums.
  • Take semi-ripe cuttings taken in summer for evergreen plants.
  • Deciduous winter-flowering species can also be propagated by hardwood cuttings in early autumn.
  • Seeds can be sown in containers or in a seed bed in the autumn.

AGM

The RHS Woody Plant Committee awarded Viburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn' an Award of Garden Merit and described it as:

"Strong-growing, large, deciduous shrub of upright growth, with dark green, ovate leaves and clusters of scented, light pink and white flowers opening from red buds."

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