Viburnum tinus

This winter-flowering viburnum is a dream shrub for the small garden, making a dense, round bush of glossy evergreen leaves. The tight clusters of flowers are pink-budded, opening to white from late autumn to early spring. Like box or bay, it strikes the note of formality which a town or courtyard garden needs. The type is 8 feet (2.4 m) tall or more, about the same in width, but the excellent variety ‘Eve Price’ is smaller, and perhaps better for gardens of limited space.

Better known, perhaps, as laurustmus. Its older name, this shrub has been inexplicably out of fashion since an Edwardian heyday, but today gardeners are scrambling to get good plants. A shrub of the Mediterranean, its hardiness was once considered suspect, but it is reliable in most parts of Britain if given a sheltered place, perhaps against a west wall. It can also be grown under glass. It is lime-tolerant, will grow in sun or light shade, and is particularly successful near the sea. It is a favourite churchyard plant, often grown in the shelter of the west porch, where it gives the churchgoer a pleasant welcome on a winter Sunday. Since the parson was by tradition the best gardener in the village, there is much to be learned from churchyard planting, an interesting subject overdue for research.

Viburnum tinus cuts beautifully, and in warmth gives out a faint, sweet scent.

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