Viburnum cinnamomifolium Viburnum cinnamomifolium

   

Viburnum cinnamomifolium, or Cinnamomum-leafed viburnum, is not an allusion to cinnamon. It is the name of the camphor tree, Cinnamomum camphora. The large, drooping, ribbed evergreen leaves on red stems make for a handsome appearance all year round.

This shrub grows to between ten & fifteen feet of height, & twenty feet is not impossible. Ours is just a baby one at four feet high & not yet very wide, though the spread can be as great as the height. It needs plenty of compost, is hardy to zero degrees, produces clusters of pale pink buds that open into honey-scented flowers in May or early June, followed by clusters of oval blue-black berries which are liked by some birds. It prefers sun but will get by in part shade.

In western gardens for about a century, V. cinnamomifolium was discovered by the great English botanist Ernest H. Wilson on Omei-shan, a mountain in western China. It is similar to V. davidii but more upright with leaves twice as big. It can become a tree which V. davidii cannot. And it is in general the rarer plant.

It has received the Royal Horticultural Society's coveted Award of Garden Merit, yet for some reason it hasn't become a widespread offering in the United States. Working against it is its lack of a catchy common name! The closest to a name anyone could easily remember that I've seen used for it is "Evergreen Viburnum," which alas could describe many other viburnums too. The thus-far accepted common name of Cinnamon Viburnum almost invariably induces people to think it's named for having the odor of cinnamon, which it does not, or possibly its cinnamon colored stems. The nursery where I found this one claimed if you bruised the leaves it smelled of cinnamon, a false notion adapted no doubt from the citrusy odor you can obtain by bruising the leaves of a Dawn Viburnum.

In the few reviews I was able to find on the web, phrases like "stately" & "fantastic outsided wonder" leap into observers' commentaries. Well, ours is too small to be stately or outsized, but it is already a reliably attractive no-maintance shrub with year-round appeal.

   



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