Family: Caprifoliaceae (Honeysuckle family)
I somehow doubt
that the product developers of the Mars Candy Company look
to nature for inspiration…but if they did, the
berries of Viburnum davidii would’ve been the perfect
models for the new (and controversial) blue M&Ms. But of course
Mother Nature always ups the ante: V. davidii berries
have a metallic sheen that makes M&Ms look dull by comparison.
Their appearance is most dramatic against the backdrop of dark
green leaves and coral stems of V. davidii.
A large and diverse
plant group, the viburnums include short and spreading, as
well as tall, deciduous and evergreen shrubs
and small trees. There’s a viburnum for every setting. Not
all are hardy in this area, although most are; and a couple
are even native to the Pacific Northwest. Many viburnums thrive
here, evidenced by their regular appearance in large-scale
commercial, low-maintenance landscapes. As a group, they are
characterized by clustered flowers and showy berries, and many
of the deciduous types offer fine fall color.
The evergreen Viburnum davidii is generally used as
a foundation planting or in front-of-the-border groupings.
Its size suits the home landscape well: while it has a fine
mounding shape, it seldom exceeds four feet in height with
a slightly larger spread. Despite its relatively small size,
it makes a strong statement with its six-inch leaves, dark
green and deeply veined. Suitable as a ground cover, its branches
are substantial and it anchors a bed nicely. In our climate,
given adequate moisture and protection from all-day sun, it
looks nice year-round. V. davidii benefits from an early
morning shower during the summer, to wash the dust from its
leaves and keep it looking its best. If scale, thrips, or aphids
set up housekeeping, an indicated, all-purpose insecticide
can be applied at two-week intervals in early spring. Remember
to read the label carefully, and be mindful of interference
V. davidii prefers acid conditions but it will tolerate
alkaline soil. It will do fine in heavy, rich clay, with regular
watering and average care. Keep its roots moist with an application
of organic mulch; feed it twice a year; and prune to shape
in the early spring or, if you want to protect the berry crop,
in the fall. Propagate it using semi-ripe cuttings in the summer,
or seed in the fall.
The flowers of V. davidii,
appearing in the spring, are sometimes described as “insignificant,” “dirty,” or “dull.” I
don’t think these adjectives apply. While V. davidii is
grown primarly for its foliage and fruit, I find the flowers
appropriate to the look of the plant and not at all unattractive.
They have no fragrance, however. They do give way to those
brilliant blue berries, which can hold on through winter and
really add to the charm of this evergreen garden staple. Remember
that plants of both sexes are required for berry production.
Enjoy your Viburnum davidii all
year; just don’t confuse
the berries with M&Ms!