Viburnum nudum: Close to perfection


Brandy Wine over three seasons

Possiumhaw or smooth witherod viburnum (Viburnum nudum) is a little known and underutilized shrub that is native from Maine and Florida and west into Texas. This is a remarkable shrub for several reasons; most notably for its attractive leaves that are so glossy you might think they’d been sprayed with leaf shine. As an added attraction the leaves turn to an eye-catching rich burgundy in autumn.


While attractive from a distance, the creamy-white, spring blooms are a bit uninteresting compared to other, more showy or more fragrant viburnums. To me its musky odor is neither pleasing or offensive - yet in late spring, the overall flower display is a welcome site in any garden. More importanly the flowers should be praised and respected for they give birth to an breathtaking fruit display that is unrivaled in the plant world.


In late summer the immature green, pea-sized berries (technically drupes) begin their metamorphosis - changing to shades of bright pink and then on to hues of bright blues and wild grape. The transformation is unsynchronized and yields large clusters of polychromic berries more showy than Donny Osmond’s dreamcoat.


Brandywine has colorful berries


While there is no such thing as a perfect plant, this one comes close. Still it is not suitable for all gardens. The species will not thrive on chalky or alkaline soils. In the North Eastern, U.S., Viburnum bark beetle can be a problem for this species, but fortunately these buggers can be controlled without chemicals. 


So how can such a beautiful plant escape full-blown stardom? As is the case with many Viburnum species, fruit set mandates that two distinct varieties (clones or ciltivars) are grown in close proximity to cross pollinate. And until the recent introduction of Brandywine™ (Viburnum nudum ‘Bulk’), most growers offered one cultivar called ‘Winterthur’ and it never set fruit. Brandywine was introduced by Proven Winners so that  there would be two selections available and thus allow for fruit set. It turns out, however, that Brandwine will set fruit without the need for another cultivar near by to cross pollinate. I have grown this plant for over four years and it has set fruit with a companion. 


Brandywine Fall color 

Brandywine Viburnum is hardy from zone 5(4) to 9. It prefers full sun to partial shade and moist, but well drained soil. It matures at a height and width of 5-7 feet. Once established it requires very little care yet offers so much more in return. 

21 comments:

  1. This is certainly a great shrub, but can you outline the ways in which 'Winterthur' and Brandywine are improvements on the straight species? Thanks.

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    1. Brandywine is self-fertile.

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  2. Brandywine is very similar Winterthur in many respects and was selected as a good match for Winterthur. Brandywine has large fruit clusters, leaves that are more narrow, and very rich red fall color.

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  3. Is this viburnum readily available? It looks like a good one to add to my garden (zone 5)

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  4. Winterthur has been on the market for may years, while brandywine is new this spring and is at this time only available at wayside gardens. It should be available at better garden centers in spring of 2008.

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  5. hello,

    I've a question as well:
    in my garden grows (overseas in Europe) the cv. 'Pink Beauty'.

    I could either buy 'Winterthur' or the species for cross pollinating. are both ok for the purpose?

    thx, brigitte

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  6. I have seen Pink Beauty in Europe. Any other clone of Vib. nudum will act as a pollinator.

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  7. 'Brandywine' is being advertised as not needing a cross-pollinator for fruit set. That's not the conclusion I come to from your article. Please comment.

    Thanks

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  8. Since I wrote this blog article I have learned something quite interesting and suprising about Brandywine Viburnum.

    We had originally selected this plant as a companion to Winterthur as it normally takes two clones of Viburnum nudum to cross pollinate and produce fruit. For the past two years, Brandywine has produced excellent fruit crops without any other clones to cross pollinate it.

    This was a welcome surprise to me as it saves growers and gardeners the need to grow two clones to get the colorful pink and blue fruit. Brandywine it seems is self compatable and produces fruit without a pollinator.

    I had Winterthur Viburnum in the same garden for years and it never produced fruit. I grew tired of a fruitless nudum so I removed some time ago.

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  9. Anonymous7:19 PM

    is the fruit edible?

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  10. tia sutter10:22 AM

    will blue muffin arrowwood viburnum serve as a cross pollinator for viburnum nudum bulk (Brandywine)?

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  11. Anonymous11:39 AM

    I would like to know if the brandywine fruit is edible please.

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  12. I don't think they are edible. The birds will not eat them until spring.

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  13. Anonymous8:06 AM

    I have three Winterthur viburnums that were planted about 7 years ago with no fruit produced. I finally found Brandywine and planted one with the Winterthurs with the hope of getting alot of fruit for the birds. In the post above, you stated that the Brandywine produced fruit on its own and you removed the Winterthur. Did the Brandywine turn out not to be a pollinator for Winterthur?

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  14. Brandywine will pollinate Winterthur and visa versa, but if you only want to buy one cultivar - Brandywine will fruit without another clone to pollinate it.

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  15. Anonymous10:56 AM

    I bought winterthur witherod yesterday and I was told it would bear fruit without a mate. A few places on the internet agreed with this but others said it needed a pollinator. So which way is it?

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  16. For Winterthur you need a pollinator. I've grown this plant for years and never saw a fruit until I put it new another clone. This is why we introduced Brandywine - but after a few years in my test garden we trashed the Winterthur and Brandywine continue to make lots of fruit. So the answer depends on which cultivar you have.

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  17. Anonymous2:39 PM

    How close does the Brandywine have to be to the Winterthur to pollinate it?

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  18. Anonymous6:50 AM

    Is Brandywine susceptible to viburnum leaf beetle?

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  19. I love Viburnum 'Brandywine'. To me it has unparalleled fall leaf colors and remarkably stunning berries. I love that the berries ripen a bit later than many other garden shrubs, so there is food for birds later in the season which is great. I am finding that I don't get that many berries and don't think it's the growing conditions. I know I could grow another cultivar of V. nudum like Winterthur, but only have space for a smaller viburnum. I read that V. carlesii might cross pollinate, but am not sure if this is reliable information. Does anyone have any information about pollinators? Or a possible online source of information on this. Many thanks.

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  20. Anonymous6:40 PM

    V. nudum, indeed a beautiful plant, is unfortunately very susceptible to the viburnum leaf beetle. This pest is found as follows: Viburnum leaf beetle was first discovered in Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio, as well as Ontario Canada. I don't know about other Canadian provinces, but since Quebec borders NY, it may be there, too. For further information, see hort.cornell,edu.

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