Archive | March 2016

Chinese snowball viburnum is a super shrub

When I think of Chinese snowball viburnum, I think about the opening lines of The Adventures of Superman (1952–1958) television series: “Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s Superman!”

When Chinese snowball viburnum blooms, I sometimes hear passersby tell Viburnum macrocephalum 5_2_2014 Easley SCme:  “Look! Those enormous puffball flowers.  It’s a hydrangea!” Most of the time they ask me: “What is it?”  Sometimes I jokingly tell them that it’s a hydrangea on steroids, but all of the time I ell them that it’s a viburnum. Technically, it’s Viburnum macrocephalum, but most folks call it snowball viburnum.

Like the “Man of Steel”, Chinese snowball viburnum is a tough, durable, and awe-inspiring vase-shaped shrub. It tolerates drought and has no pest problems. Expect Chinese snowball viburnum to grow to a robust height of 12 to 15 ft. with a comparable spread. I enjoy watching the small cauliflower-like flower buds give rise to Granny Smith green inflorescences that turn bright white as they open to 5- to 8 inch diameter puffballs. Sadly, they lack any fragrance, and they are sterile so expect no fruit.

Viburnum macrocephalum 1For 6 to 8 weeks Chinese snowball viburnum upstages other shrubs and trees in the landscape as a stand-alone specimen or in a shrub border. In the fall, this shrub produces a smattering of flowers, almost like a movie trailer that fuels your anticipation for next Spring’s floral performance.

Chinese snowball viburnum should be sited in a prominent well-drained location in full sun to part shade. I hope you consider growing or simply admiring this super shrub.

Bob Polomski  © 2016


Paperbush is an ironclad winter-flowering shrub

Edgeworthia flowers

Paperbush (Edgeworthia chrysantha) at the SC Botanical Garden. March 10, 2016

Paperbush (Edgeworthia chrysantha) is one of my winter- and early spring-blooming favorites. This uncommon deciduous shrub from China is in the same family as winter daphne. It sports an interesting growth habit with flexible, almost rubbery stems that emerge from its crown. Expect a height and spread of 6 to 12 ft.


Ideally suited for a well-drained location that receives afternoon shade, paperbush bears lush, tropical-looking, plumeria-like leaves during the growing season.  Occasional watering may be necessary during hot, dry spells in the summer.

When fall arrives, the leaves are shed to reveal a number of plump, silvery flower buds. At first glance it appears as if these “buds” are fully opened flowers, but that’s not true. It’s only an illusion created by the silky-white hairs that enclose the buds.

Wait until February and early March to enjoy the real floral display. After years of wintertime rain, sleet, snow or ice, paperbush always delivers. Each one is comprised of yellow tubular flowers on the inside surrounded by white on the outside. A paperbush in bloom in mid-winter never fails to take me to my “happy place.” Perhaps it’ll do the same for you.

Bob Polomski 2016(c)