Bodnant’s Viburnum

Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’  in winter sunshine. © Karen Andrews

The wafting scent of a fragrant shrub on the cold winter air is special. A summer garden can accost your senses with a heady mix of incompatible perfumes. The winter perfume of Viburnum bodnantense is a much more delicate affair. Its November-March flowering season means it is appreciated all the more. It has relatively few serious garden competitors.

Unresolved Taxonomy

Gardeners, garden centres, nurseries and books happily refer to this outstanding winter shrub as Viburnum x bodnantense. Taxonomists have yet to resolve both the plant family and names satisfactorily. Viburnum was previously classified in Caprifoliaceae or the Honeysuckle family, today it resides somewhat uneasily in Adoxaceae or the Elder family. Kew’s Plants of the World (2017) by Christenhusz, Fay and Chase fully recogises that the lines between these two families are somewhat blurred. Horticulturalists carry on while taxonomists fail to agree.

The taxonomy is further complicated in that the naming of Viburnum x bodnantense remains an unresolved name. This is not an obscure shrub. It is regarded as easy to grow with a long season of interest. It is much sought after and recommended shrub for winter fragrance and colour. Three ornamental hybrids had the prestigious RHS Award of Merit (AGM) in 2018:

  • Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Charles Lamont’
  • Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’
  • Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Deben’
Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Deben’. © Karen Andrews

Bodnant History

These Viburnums have an illustrious horticultural past. Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ was bred at Bodnant around 1935 by Lord Aberconway’s Head Gardener, Frederick Puddle. Bodnant is a world-famous botanical garden in North Wales on the banks of the River Conway.

Three Puddle Generations

Three generations of head gardeners from the Puddle family served there from 1920 to 2005: Frederick, Charles and Martin Puddle. The talented horticulturalist, Frederick Puddle, knew great success at several Chelsea Flower Shows. He was awarded the RHS Victoria Medal of Honour with his employer, the 2nd Lord Aberconway.

Rhododendron Hybrids

Bodnant is central to world horticultural history. The 2nd Lord Aberconway financed many botanical expeditions, including those of Ernest Wilson, George Forrest and Harold Comber. Bodnant is recognised for its ground-breaking role in the breeding of Rhododendron hybrids between 1927-83.

Bodnant Today

Bodnant has been a National Trust property since 1949 and open to the general public since 2012. It houses 5 National Collections:

  • Magnolia – earliest from China in 1880s
  • Eucryphia
  • Embothrium
  • Rhododendron forestii
  • Bodnant’s own Rhododendron hybrids

The garden also has a famous Laburnum arch dating back to 1880 and Wales’ largest collection of UK Champion Trees. It has something to offer the visitor in all seasons. It remains open in winter when many other gardens are closed to the public.

Copyright Note

Karen does not seek or receive any commercial interest or advantage from this blog. She is not promoting any business venture. She simply loves to share fascinating facts about plants. These pages illustrate her love of plants, botany, biodiversity, gardens and creative expression. There is always so much to learn about plant diversity. This blog is designed as a showcase for photography, commentary on plants and wildlife, gardens and other places visited, horticulture and related topics. Viewpoints are her own, not those of her employer.

© Karen Andrews 2018 onwards. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Karen Andrews and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

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