Here is my neighbor Patrick's Viburnum sargentii 'Onondaga.' Nice shrub, with flowers like a lacecap hydrangea's…only in spring.
And below is my Viburnum sargentii 'Onondaga':
Patrick and I bought our shrubs on sale at exactly the same moment in the fall of 2008, from the same excellent nursery, Mettowee Mill Nursery in Dorset, VT. I always try to save my shrub purchases for Mettowee Mill, where they raise some of their shrubs themselves, have a really good selection, and offer huge specimens if you have more cash than time. I tend to shop in the $45 range, which usually gets me something impressive that has to be muscled into my car.
My viburnum, however, is the first plant I've bought from Mettowee Mill that was never happy. I put it in a half-shaded spot on the south side of my house. Then my neighbor had a tree taken down last spring and it wound up in full sun, where it proceeded to wilt on every warm day.
I also noticed that it had a sprinkling of viburnum leaf beetles on it. First seen in New York State fifteen years ago, this is a pest so devastating that Cornell University has devoted loads of web attention to it. Not every viburnum species tastes equally good to this beetle. Cornell says that Viburnum sargentii falls into the "susceptible" category.
So when I dug the shrub up last fall and tipped it into my wheelbarrow–heavy work!–on its way to a shadier spot, I sprayed it carefully with insecticidal soap. This is completely against my religion. But I did it because I was moving it near my beloved Viburnum juddii, which has pink and white snowball-shaped flower clusters in early spring with a perfume that fills the neighborhood, and did not want anything pestilential in the vicinity of that glorious shrub.
Ten days ago, my Viburnum sargentii 'Onondaga' was about to bloom and looked great. Today…it was pulled out of the ground and thrown onto the brush pile.
Patrick's still looks gorgeous. His is in a more exposed spot, where bugs would be easier to spot, and he picked off the larvae by hand. His viburnum also probably gets supplemental water. Whereas in my yard, it's sink or swim.
In fact, I think if I was a nice new shrub that cost $45, I'd want to be in Patrick's yard, too.
He might not give me a mulch of fall leaves, it's true, and I'd like that. On the other hand, he's a relative beginner as a gardener and not yet a hardened killer of innocent bushes. He doesn't yet have 10,000 plants in his yard, though he is on his way. The advantage to going home with Patrick is that he'd be paying attention. He'd hear cries for help before it was too late.
In that other yard, well, it's very Darwinian.Posted by Evelyn Hadden on May 28, 2010 at 3:05 am, in the category Real Gardens.