It was probably 1975 when I first discovered Viburnum carlesii while walking my dog and living in Vienna, Virginia. The fragrance was so incredible that I trespassed into the yard and stole a flower to take home. Every day (at least for April), I made sure to take the same route just to be near while it remained in bloom.
When I moved to Loudoun County and built my house, it was one of the first shrubs to be planted, purchased from Mac Stiff of Roundhill Gardens. That shrub is still alive and producing those incredible fragrant flowers for 2 to 3 weeks in April. The month wouldn’t be complete without it.
Commonly known as Korean Spicebush, there are now numerous cultivars and hybrids, one even named ‘Spice Girl’. Capable of reaching seven feet with an equal spread, the fragrance is the sole reason to grow Viburnum carlesii, lacking ornament any other time of year. Although its round habit is relatively tidy, not that I care, you would find it in my garden even if it looked like a misshapen mop.
A hybrid with Viburnum carlesii is V. x burkwoodii. Immense plants grow at Oak Hill, they are at least 10 x 10. The fragrance is not quite as strong as the one parent but still worthy. Some April days you will notice the fragrance sinks to the lowest parts of the garden where you will find me working in close proximity. Weeding is much more pleasant when immersed in their perfume.