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The versatility and reliability of Viburnum tinus is legendary.

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Picture courtesy www.kazimingi.co.zaPicture courtesy www.kazimingi.co.zaThis ‘golden oldie’ remains popular with gardeners today for its reliability and abundance of good qualities. Viburnum tinus belongs to the beautiful honeysuckle family, and varies in height from 2 to 3m tall, with an almost equal spread. It is evergreen and fast growing, with a dense rounded crown of shiny, dark green leaves; and in late winter and spring, large flattish heads of pink flower buds appear, opening into tiny star-shaped, pure white flowers. The flowers are followed by clusters of small metallic-blue berries which mature in autumn.

Wise gardeners know that the secret behind a really good garden design is to include a selection of hardy shrubs and trees, which form the backbone of the garden, giving it structure and appeal all year round. These structural plants provide interest in the garden with their various shapes and colours, and Viburnum tinus ‘Lucidum’ fits the bill perfectly!

Viburnum tinus is native to the Mediterranean area of Europe and North Africa, where it is found in the more luxuriant type of maquis/macchia vegetation, and as undergrowth in woods, usually near the sea. Maquis in French, and macchia mediterranea in Italian, describes a shrubland biome in the Mediterranean region, typically consisting of densely growing evergreen shrubs.

It can be grown throughout South Africa, except for very our humid regions, and will tolerate very low temperatures inland, as well as drought and windy sites, making Viburnum tinus 'Lucidum' is an excellent choice for gardeners, both inland and at the coast.

In the Garden:

The versatility of this viburnum is legendary, as it tolerates a wide range of growing conditions, and because it can be planted in in full sun, or semi-shade, it is perfect for beds where the sun pattern varies greatly between summer and winter. It is available as a standard plant, and grows well in a pot, making Viburnum tinus perfect for smaller gardens, and even balcony gardens; and a newer garden hybrid called “Viburnum tinus Variegatum” has lovely leaves, edged in creamy-white.

Nature lovers will be glad to know that although this shrub is not indigenous to South Africa, its flowers are abundant in nectar and pollen, and it is known for attracting bees, birds and butterflies to the garden. The fruit and seeds are also eaten by birds, and if left unpruned, Viburnum tinus will grow tall enough to provide a sheltered habitat for birds.

Viburnum tinus is wonderful in the mixed shrub border, and because it responds well to pruning, and can be clipped into any shape, is ideal for topiary, or for formal or informal hedges or screens. If you plant several plants of Viburnum tinus, good fruiting will be ensured, and bearing in mind that living hedges and screens are great for screening noise, reducing air pollution, and providing wind protection, why not treat yourself to a couple of these reliable, low-maintenance shrubs, they are long-lived, low-maintenance, and truly beautiful!

Cultivation/Propagation:

Viburnum tinus grows well in most regions of the country, and can be planted in in full sun, or semi-shade. Although it thrives in a Mediterranean climate, in the winter rainfall regions of South Africa it will require regular watering in summer, and very well-drained soil. This plant grows close to the sea and can take fairly strong winds, but remember, in the wild it grows in protected woods and will struggle if it is totally exposed to the sea. Unfortunately, it does not like the high humidity of the Lowveld and KwaZulu-Natal; and in very hot and dry regions it will require regular watering in summer, benefitting from some shade during the hottest time of the day. Once established, Viburnum tinus is a tough, frost-hardy shrub, and will also tolerate quite dry conditions, but in the garden it looks at its best if watered moderately.

Viburnum tinus prefers light, sandy, chalky soil, but will adapt to most garden soils, growing well in loamy soils, and even heavy clay, as long as it does not remain waterlogged. Like everything, they will do better if you treat them kindly, so give them a good start by adding compost to the planting holes, and remember to give them enough room to develop. If left unpruned, the bushes will develop a beautiful shape on their own, perhaps only requiring a light trimming occasionally, but for hedges or screening, pruning can be done anytime. For hedging, plant the bushes one metre apart, and clip using secateurs, not shears. A spring application of mulch, together with a balanced fertiliser, will be sufficient to keep them looking at their best.

Viburnum tinus is easily propagated from semi-hardwood cuttings in summer. Take cuttings 5 to 8cm long with a heel if possible.

Problems, Pests & Diseases:

Viburnum tinus is not bothered by any serious pests or diseases, but can be susceptible to aphids, honey fungus, and leaf spot.

The plant can withstand temperatures down to -10°C, but may suffer foliage damage and stem dieback in very harsh winters.

Warning:

We did not find Viburnums listed as toxic to humans or animals, but it is always wise to supervise small children in the garden, and to discourage pets from chewing on plants.

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