January's plant of the month

For those brave enough to venture out, the winter garden has its rewards, as some of nature's sweetest scents lurk among bare branches

Although it's tempting to hibernate indoors over the winter months, there's a fantastic range of plants braving the elements and filling the garden with colour and fragrance.

A great example is Viburnum × bodnantense ‘Charles Lamont’ AGM, a deciduous shrub with upright stems and ovate, toothed, dark green leaves. However it's primarily grown for its flowers, which are borne in clusters in the leaf axils along the bare stem. The bright pink flower buds emerge to produce wonderfully fragrant, tubular, pink flowers.

Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Charles Lamont’ AGM

A shrub for winter beauty

As with many winter-flowering plants, this Viburnum can flower sporadically from autumn until spring, depending on the prevailing weather conditions. During mild spells, the flowers open and in cold spells they usually stop. As you walk past, its fragrance makes you stop in your tracks, so it's worthwhile planting it by a path, or near your door were you can really appreciate it during the winter months. It's not alone, many winter-flowering shrubs produce fantastic fragrance to attract the few pollinators that are around at this time of year.

The best Viburnum

We've many different  viburnums at RHS Garden Hyde Hall, and several different cultivars of V. × bodnantense which are all medium sized shrubs reaching around 3m (10ft) tall and 2m (6½ft) wide. They are easy to grow and like moist but well-drained soil in full sun or part shade. They don’t need regular pruning other than tidying to shape but on older specimens a quarter of the mature stems can be pruned hard to the base after flowering to promote new growth.

History of the Viburnum

The cross to create the first  hybrid of V. farreri and V. grandiflorum was made by Charles Lamont, Assistant Curator at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh in 1933. More hybridising was done later in the 1930s at Bodnant Gardens, North Wales.

Where to find our winter shrub

Our specimen of V. 'Charles Lamont' can be found in an island bed by the path in the Hilltop Garden where our visitors can enjoy it as they pass. The islands beds have a mixed planting theme with a shrubby ‘backbone’ interweaved with perennials and grasses to give all year round colour and texture.

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