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Laurestinus

A SHOWY WINTER FLOWERING SHRUB

Laurestinus plantLooking for a shrub that flowers during the winter? You can count on viburnum tinus, better known as laurestinus. It begins flowering in late October or early November and continues until March or early April, at which time it comes into full bloom.

This year my laurestinus started flowering in mid- August and has a full set of flower buds, that should easily provide flowers the rest of this fall and into springtime. That's unusual, but I have had this happen before.

The flower clusters stand nicely above the dark green evergreen foliage, providing quite a showy fall, winter and spring display. The flower clusters range in shades of soft pink to creamy white, and have a slight fragrance. Flowers are sometimes followed by metallic blue berries, that remain on the plant throughout most of the summer. My wife considers this one of the best winter flowering plants, because she can use the cut branches for winter arrangements.

The medium to dark green foliage makes a nice background for the attractive flowers. The leaves have a rather leathery texture and can be used as a filler in flower arrangements. The evergreen leaves range from two to three inches in length, and oval in shape.

As a landscape shrub one of the outstanding characteristics of this plant is that is has the ability to tolerate full sun, even a reflected south or western exposure. However, it is susceptible to winter freeze damage if planted in a spot that is too cold, or when placed in soil that is not well drained. This is an attractive plant to use in landscape borders or to use as a privacy screen.

The best known and most popular variety of laurestinus is viburnum tinus. Here in the Northwest this plant will attain a height of about 7 to 12 feet, and a width of 3 to 5 feet. It can easily be kept lower with simple pruning or shearing. There is also a dwarf variety that only grows about 4 to 5 feet tall.

Another popular variety is viburnum tinus 'spring bouquet'. This one only grows about half as tall, and remains a little bushier. Because of its lower five to six foot growth habit, it makes a nice plant to use in borders, along the foundation of the house or as a medium height hedge.

There is also a 'variegated' variety of viburnum tinus. The outstanding characteristic of this plant is its showy green, white and soft yellow, variegated foliage. The flowers and growth habit are similar to viburnum tinus. I've found this one difficult to find.

One way to help provide additional winter protection for the various varieties of viburnum tinus, is to begin withholding water late in the summer, which helps to harden the plants before winter sets-in. In August, again in September and again in October I feed my plants with 0-10-10 which helps promote bloom and at the same time harden the plants for winter.

Viburnums are not heavy feeders, but if fertilising is needed, use a quality rhododendron type fertilizer. I specify quality, because you want to use one that has the micro-nutrients like iron, zinc, magnesium, etc. included with the fertilizer. The best time for feeding is in late winter or early spring. If a second feeding is needed it can be made in late spring. Read and follow application directions, and if it is a dry type of fertilizer, be sure to water-it-in thoroughly, so there is no chance of burning the surface roots.

Pruning should not be a major problem. A certain amount of pruning is done as the flowers are cut for arranging. However, if severe pruning is required it is best done during the winter dormant season months of November through February.

Mildew can be an occasional problem if the plants are situated in a spot where it is damp or where there is poor air circulation. Fungicides like 'funginex' can be used to help control mildew if it becomes a problem.

The plants are not really prone to any specific insect problems.

So if you're looking for a way to add a little flower power to your winter garden, take a good look at the showy laurestinus, viburnum tinus.

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