Viburnum tomentosum plicatum ‘Mariesii’

This spectacular viburnum from China and Japan is a specimen shrub, if ever there was one. Its tiered architectural shape must be seen in splendid isolation, and as its lowest branches sweep the ground there is no question of under-planting. It was introduced into Britain towards the end of the last century by Charles Maries, who collected in the Far East for the nursery firm of Veitch.

The mam stems of ‘Mariesii’ grow some 8 to 10 feet (2.4 to 3 m) high, and from these spring horizontal branches some 7 feet (2.1 m) long, so that the total spread of the shrub in maturity is very wide. The owner of a large garden who wishes to plant a group should space them 12 feet (3.6 m) apart, so that only the tips of the branches will overlap. ‘Mariesii’ is a plant for all seasons. In early summer every branch will be laden with flat clusters of pure white lacecap flowers, rather like those of a lacecap hydrangea, which last for several weeks. In autumn the oval leaves will turn crimson and the central fertile flowers will mature into bunches of scarlet berries, and when leaves and berries fall, the bare skeleton of the shrub will still attract attention.

This viburnum is quite easy to grow. It prefers a rich, slightly moist soil, either acid or alkaline, in a sunny position, but is not fussy, and will thrive in a dry soil if watered well when young, Dark, glossy evergreens, such as Elaeagnus x ebbmgei or Viburnum x burkwoodii (flowering earlier) would make a good background for a single specimen; or a group could be planted beside a pond, in a scenic setting of water and sky.

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