great shrub: a showoff viburnum, ‘michael dodge’
YOU CAN SEE IT FROM THE PROVERBIAL MILE AWAY: Viburnum dilatatum ‘Michael Dodge’ weighed down in its embarrassment of gold fall fruit. Even though it’s a little coarse up-close and my friends the birds don’t seem to care for the flavor of all those brilliant morsels, I think I’m in love.
On a part of my hillside that’s visible from key spots indoors, a grouping of ‘Michael Dodge’ grows in front of three gold-fruited ‘Bob White’ crabapples, with a mass of yellow-twig dogwood (Cornus sericea ‘Silver and Gold’) in the picture, too. This simple and virtually carefree planting provides endless fall and winter pleasure, and ‘Michael Dodge’ even adds reddish fall foliage to the mix for a time.
I grow a lot of varieties of Viburnum—a habit that started more than 20 years ago, when I set out to make a garden for me and my avian companions. Many Viburnum have reddish or blue to blue-black fruit (or red fading to blue); but some species, including V. dilatatum or the linden Viburnum, where brilliant ‘Michael Dodge’ fits in, feature such notable oddballs.
If it’s pure red you want, V. dilatatum also includes some of the most prolific and longest-lasting fruiters of all in the genus—like ‘Oneida’ (dark red on a compact shrub, and very long-lasting) and screaming ‘Cardinal Candy’ (an extra-hardy selection that is listed as the best pollinator for ‘Michael Dodge’ and worthy anyhow of inclusion in a shrub border or hedgerow).
Digressing another second: Another species I’ve grown that breaks from the reddish or blue fruit scheme is the native Viburnum nudum (the smooth witherod Viburnum), with waxy or even shiny leaves leave to boot, but here’s the hitch: the gorgeous cultivar ‘Winterthur’ gets devoured in my garden by the dreaded Viburnum leaf beetle, which doesn’t seem to have an appetite for the dilatatum types (Asian natives), and leaves ‘Michael Dodge’ alone.
So there’s another “plus” for this featured shrub—even if it’s a bit informal, and not as showy in flower (above) or distinctive in habit as, say, a doublefile (Viburnum plicatum and V.p. var. tomentosum). My plants haven’t grown up yet, but I’m guessing ‘Michael Dodge’ will top 8 feet tall and wide, probably bigger. It adapts to sun or part shade. Again, for heaviest fruit set, ‘Cardinal Candy’ is a good pollinator choice.
No wonder such an exceptional variety got the name it did, by the way. It was the expert plantsman Michael Dodge whose 26 years at White Flower Farm helped bring so many plants to gardeners’ attention.
Any Viburnum you particularly love right now? How’s your fall garden shaping up?
other juicy viburnum from the archives:
- Think fall (yes, fall): My original homage to this genius of a genus.
- Pruning viburnum: They don’t like being picked at any more than you do. Prune these beautiful woody plants correctly and they will reward you and wildlife.
- Trouble in paradise: Viburnum leaf beetle will ravage certain species and varieties in a flash, others not so. Learn how to combat this pest with non-toxic October-through-April search-and-destroy missions.
- For the birds: Making a garden for birds to enjoy.