Friday, May 29, 2009

Viburnum Pollination Blues

A huge chunk of my mental garden energy last week went towards good pollination. The bees are out there, both big and small, native and nonnative. Let’s just hope they were able to do their job well and to the best of their little bumble-ish abilities.

The reason for all this garden worry actually has a lot to do with the birds, so I guess this is a posting about the birds and the bees. You see, seven long years ago when I began work on this particular garden, I put in a long hedgerow of viburnum bushes, which I hoped would feed the birds with their plentiful berries.

The American Cranberries (Viburnum trilobum) I planted have done very, very well, producing huge numbers of red, translucent berries which the birds have readily devoured every year since.

But sadly, the Arrowwoods (Viburnum dentatum) I planted were not producing. Oh, we had arrowwod flowers by the thousands. But no berries.

Lots of garden sleuthing, reading and googling led me to the conclusion that I had made a mistake. I had planted all of one variety, a shorter cultivar called “Blue Muffin.” It is lovely for the flowers, but not so well known as a berry producer. But here’s why: viburnums won’t pollinate their own flowers, and all of the blue muffin shrubs in the US had come from one parent stock. Unlike other viburnums, arrowwood will not be pollinated by other viburnum varieties. So, despite the fact that they were growing well and thriving, the birds were still not getting those valuable berries that we had all hoped for.

Last year I located a website of similarly unhappy gardeners who had experienced the same trouble. I got this advice: plant another kind of arrowwood, but be careful to plant one that will bloom at the exact same time as “Blue Muffin.” Not as easy as you’d expect. Blue muffin’s bloom time seems to move around a bit depending on which region of the country you live in.

So, after lots of reading and phone calls to nurseries and website hunting I located an arrowwood cultivar called "Autumn Jazz," which is supposed to do the trick. I ordered via email, planted in late last October and having been holding my figurative garden breath and crossing my mental fingers ever since. Would they bloom together and make those berries? Only time would tell.

So this was the week. The blue muffins were in full force bloom and I began my watch over the Autumn Jazz. It did indeed bloom, but it seemed so small next to the bigger hedgerow…. was there enough pollen to go around and do the trick? We’ll see later this summer….


dr.ben said...

It is 2011, did the viburnums fruit?

dr.ben said...

It has been two years since planting Autumn Jazz- did the viburnums fruit?

dr.ben said...

It has been two years since planting the Autumn Jazz- did the other viburnum fruit?

Alison Gillespie said...

Thanks for asking, Dr. Ben. Yes, they did... although the pollination was a bit funny since the new shrub only had a dozen or so flowers and the older shrubs had hundreds and hundreds. Close to the new, tiny shrub, there were indeed blue colored berries! These were readily eaten by birds almost the moment they turned dark blue. I think it is time for a new posting about all this, so check back in the next day or so for more details in a new, current post.