Entries in Annabelle hydrangea (2)


Chinese Snowball Viburnum and Other Snowball Bushes

Generations of southerners have welcomed Chinese snowball viburnum, Viburnum macrocephalum 'Sterile', into their gardens. With multitudes of flower clusters up to eight inches across, this classic shrub is a thing of beauty when it blooms.

This semi-evergreen shrub grows in hardiness zones 6-9 in full sun to partial shade, though it may need protection from hot afternoon sun in the most southern regions. My own Chinese snowball viburnum gets full sun until about 2P.M., after which it is in the shade.

Chinese snowball viburnum reaches 12 to 20 feet tall and wide with a dense round form, so it needs to be sited where it will have space to grow. It can be trained as a small tree, and it makes a wonderful specimen. It also fits well into a woodland garden. It blooms on the previous season's old wood, so it should be pruned for shaping soon after it finishes blooming. That is also the best time to fertilize. It likes acidic, loamy soil that is moist but well drained; however, it will adapt to a wide range of soil conditions. It is a low maintenance shrub that is rarely bothered by pests or diseases. 

The plant usually blooms from late April through early May, though bloom time is later in more northern regions. The flower clusters start out lime green, then mature to pure white. The flowers are not fragrant, but they do attract butterflies. They are sterile, so there is no danger of invasiveness. As beautiful as the blooms are in the garden, they also make outstanding cut flowers. 

There is sometimes confusion about the identity of this shrub. It is often mistaken for hydrangea, for the blooms resemble those of Hydrangea arborescens, also called Annabelle hydrangeas, as well as Hydrangea paniculata, also called PeeGee hydrangeas. Chinese snowball viburnum is a member of the Caprifoliceae family, while hydrangeas are a members of the Hydrangeacea family. Some of the differences:

Chinese snowball viburnum has smaller leaves than hydrangeas.

Chinese snowball viburnum is a larger shrub than Annabelle hydrangea, which only grows 4-6 feet.

Chinese snowball viburnum has round flower clusters, while PeeGee's are cone-shaped.

Chinese snowball viburnum prefers a sunnier location than the hydrangeas and is more drought tolerant. 

Chinese snowball viburnum blooms earlier and has a shorter bloom time than the hydrangeas, though sometimes it will have some late summer blooms. 

Chinese snowball viburnum blooms on old wood and should be pruned soon after blooming, while Annabelle and PeeGee, which bloom on new wood, are best pruned in late winter or early spring.

Be aware that other shrubs are also called Snowball, including the mophead types of Hydrangea macrophylla, the previously mentioned Hydrangea arborescens and Hydrangea paniculata and also two other types of viburnum: Viburnum opulus, which is also called as European cranberry bush and guelder rose; and Viburnum plicatum, the Japanese snowball. 

So when looking for a snowball, remember that not all snowballs are the same. It really helps to know the Latin!




A Perfect Day in November

Another perfect day. Sixty-eight degrees, clear sky, fresh, clean air. Spring is my favorite season, but fall is a close second. I watch as my garden puts itself to bed, and there is beauty and peace in this place as winter's rest approaches.

In my last journal entry, a walk through my garden, I posted a photo of a Japanese maple with golden leaves. Look what happened to it overnight.

 In the woodland garden, a blue hosta, which was about three feet tall in its prime earlier this year, is yellow and wilted with age, but still beautiful as it composes itself against the remnants of an old stump.

I love old stumps, as long as they are where they belong and not in the middle of my lawn. They provide shelter and nourishment to little woodland creatures, and I like the look of them when they are covered with moss and lichens.

This old stump, near the lady garden, is host to variegated ivy.

What else to share with you today? There is so much out there. A lot of it I have planted, and a lot of it I have not. I am blessed with some great native plants, including oakleaf hydrangeas. I have heard that there are more oakleaf hydrangeas in Alabama than anywhere else in the world. It is our official state wildflower. I have plenty of them in my yard. After the leaves have fallen, the seed heads will persist through the winter. 

As the days are shortening and the nights getting cooler, the hydrangeas in my yard are putting on their final show.


One kind of hydrangea I did plant is Hydrangea arborescans 'Annabelle'. This was my mother's name, so I planted a half dozen in her memory. They have smooth green leaves and huge white flowers through the summer. Now the flowers are shriveled and brown, but this morning's sun caught one of them and gave it a golden glow.

I hope the sun is shining in your heart, wherever you are, whatever the weather may be. Have a great weekend.