Vibernum carlesii flower. Scratch-n-sniff!I’m not sure I should admit to how much time I spend thinking about my own garden while I’m working in this one. I can’t help but distractedly eyeball all of the plants that I want for myself. Why is that? I’m surrounded by thousands of beautiful plants here at work – why do I have the burning desire to have so many of them at home too? I guess gardening must be more obsession than profession – probably people in other lines of work are more able to separate themselves from it when they go home. (Booksellers might have a tough time too, come to think of it…)

Viburnum carlesii outside the North GardenBut then it can hardly be helped – what is a public garden for, if not to bring home ideas? Right now Viburnum carlesii (Koreanspice bush also known as Mayflower viburnum) is at the top of the list of plants on the property for which I would pay full price. Michael Dirr, in his Manual of Woody Landscape Plants says, “A garden without a viburnum is akin to life without music and art.” – so obviously my garden shouldn’t go another day without one.  Dirr does imply in Viburnums: Flowering Shrubs for Every Season that the Koreanspice is rather pedestrian as viburnums go. But with such a perfume, who wouldn’t want one of their very own?  Viburnum carlesii 'Compactum' and Tulipa 'Elegant Lady'The shrubs are also pleasingly rounded, dense and typically 4-8′ tall – ours are in the 6-8′ range. They can take sun or shade (I imagine they are more floriferous in the sun) and a range of soil conditions – excepting wet according to Dirr. They are hardy from USDA zones 4-8ish. A couple of years ago we planted V. carlesii ‘Compactum’ in the Rose Garden and that’s the one for me. Not only is it a dwarf that grows only to 3-4′ but it was introduced by my great-grandfather’s friends and colleagues at Hoogendoorn Nurseries in Middletown, RI back in 1953.

Anne Raver, mentions Koreanspice bush in this NY Times article about attracting pollinators.  She noticed that as delicious as the scent is to us, her bee population was not as hungry for it. I feel strongly, like she does, about planting natives – which are generally more attractive to our wildlife – and so my plan is, for every exotic I plant in my garden, I’ll plant two natives. How’s that for justifying some serious plant shopping this weekend?

Highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum)Fothergilla gardenii 'Blue Mist'Carolina silverbell (Halesia carolina)Full moon cut leaf Japanese maple (Acer aconitifolium)

Do thoughts about your garden distract you while you’re at work? What’s at the top of your full-price wishlist right now?

Japanese flowering crabapples (Malus floribunda)

“There is of course no such thing as a green thumb. Gardening is a vocation like any other – a calling, if you like, but not a gift from heaven.”                                            – Eleanor Perenyi (1918-2009)

9 thoughts on “Mayflower

  1. I went out and bought my full-price wishlist number: a ‘Daybreak’ Magnolia. Right now it is only a stick with a handful of leaves, but I know in a few years it’ll be the showstopper in my side yard, pure pink in late April, early May with a scent to die for. One other item is that I will have to buy a more mature Abies concolor (White fir) for my property line. I promised a neighbor when I had the scrappy juniper pulled out, I would put at least 7-8′ tree in its place, which will cost me at least $300-350. Be careful what you promise people!

    Oo Susan, that was a big promise! But at least you’ll love it too. And that magnolia sounds divine! -kris

  2. Like you I think of gardening all the time–when I work (designing and garden coaching), when I blog, when I putter in my own garden. Even when I go out with the family I’m pointing out plants and marveling over them. They think I’m obsessed, and they’re right.

    I bought one of my wish list plants this spring: Mexican weeping bamboo. I still want a large Yucca rostrata but have yet to spring for it.

    Pam, There’s probably a 12 step group somewhere in the world for people like us. And I think it’s very good of you to space out your purchases – I went a little nuts this weekend… -kris

  3. I would be too embarrassed to admit how much I think about gardening. It consumes the majority of my thoughts. My wish list is very, very long, but a few must-haves include: magnolia, stewartia, David Austin rose ‘Evelyn’, more hellebores, bog rosemary, Heuchera ‘Plum Pudding’, Dwarf Fothergilla, Spirea ‘Goldflame’, and euphorbia, any variety I can get my hands on.

    Liisa, It’s amazing how many wish-list plants we have in common! (and I added a couple – thanks!) -kris

  4. The viburnum is blooming in streetside beds here, too. They are quite enticing. You’re lucky to get to see so many different plants at work, you can judge what does well before adding it to your own garden. Cheers!

    CD, I do feel lucky to become so well acquainted with so many plants. The only downside is not taking as many exciting risks with unknowns – that’s fun too and I have to remind myself to do it! -kris

  5. That’s not a serious question about do we think about gardening at work, right?! hahahahahaa and thanks to the Internet, I can look up the stuff that pops into my head any time of day! don’t tell…

    Lynn, Your secret’s safe with me. (wink, wink!) -kris

  6. Gardening and work are inexplicably entwined as I can never visit a garden center just to try and sell them something. I have to wander the perennials, shrubs and trees and annual aisles just to see what is new and interesting.

    Layanee, It must take remarkable self-control to not come home with a car-full every day! -kris

  7. Kris–I am coming to Rhode Island in, like, a week! It just hit me that that’s where you are! (I know, I’m a little dense). I couldn’t find your email address but if you want to drop me a note, I’ll give you details–I’m doing a talk at the Barrington library.


    Amy, I’m so glad it occurred to you to be in touch – actually I’m impressed! Gail and I made the plan weeks ago to attend your Wicked Plants talk at the Barrington library Saturday, May 23 at 3:00. Anyone else want to go??? -kris

  8. Kris,
    I think about gardening daily, even though I have only pots to fill. I can’t seem to go grocery shopping without getting totally sidetracked by overworked plants that cry out for adoption. I really shouldn’t be let out alone. It’s only thoughts of weekend nursery visits that is keeping me going this week. Is it really only Tuesday so far?

    MumPatricia, I think it’s OK for you to be “let out alone” because sometimes your rescues end up in my garden – works out pretty well I think! And feel free to send some extra thoughts my garden’s way too… Saturday is coming right up… -kris

  9. Oh, I think about my garden a lot more than I actually work in it! I think you IDed one of my mystery plants as a Korean spice viburnum – it smelled heavenly, but for kind of a short time. Maybe due to a bad site? Or are they just ephemeral like that even in the hands of pros like you?

    Karen, How exciting that you already have one! How long they bloom probably depends more on the weather than the site (too few blooms and I’d look at the site) – ours had been in bloom for maybe a week when I took that picture and they were already starting to fade a bit. That’s pretty ephemeral as spring blooms go – but worth it while it lasts! -kris

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