The garden in winter can be quite dreary. Gray skies above a brown landscape devoid of flowers makes the gardener yearn for spring. Savvy gardeners know that they can make the garden a beautiful and interesting place in winter. Contributing to many winter landscapes is the winter-blooming Dawn viburnum.
Dawn grows 6-to-10 feet tall. It bears fragrant pink flowers in late fall and winter on bare stems. During the growing season Dawn viburnum has glossy, serrated leaves about 3-to-4 inches long. They emerge bronze-green, turning dark green as they mature.
Dawn is a variety of Viburnum x bodnantense, a hybrid between V. farreri and V. grandiflorum, two Asian species. Its name derives from Bodnant Gardens in Wales, United Kingdom, the estate where it was developed in 1935 by Lord Henry McLaren.
Dawn is the first of a few cultivars of Bodnant viburnum. Charles Lamont has dark pink flowers in large clusters; Deben has a stiff, upright habit with fragrant, almost white flowers, turning red; and Pink Dawn has fragrant pink flowers with rose in the bud. Dawn and Pink Dawn are often confused, even by nurserymen.
Grow Dawn and all Bodnant viburnum cultivars in full sun or part shade. Plant in moist, well-drained soil. Added compost adds natural nutrition and improves drainage and water-retention. Watering is needed only during drought. Fertilize in spring with a flowering shrub fertilizer.
Wet winter weather sometimes mars flowering, and planting in a slightly sheltered location helps shield it from winter rain. Dawn and its Bodnant viburnum cousins are resistant to viburnum leaf beetle, as well as damage from deer. Giving plants good air circulation usually wards off severe fungal problems.