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Spring Celebration and Viburnums
May 23, 2011

A blessed 'Victoria Day' to our Canadian friends.

Once again, prayers go out to the storm ravaged areas and to all of the people there.

The Columbine are starting to bloom, however I have yet to see a hummingbird.

Oh, they are here, as others have seen them, just not us.

As of today, 2011 is the second wettest in west Michigan's recorded history.

From January 1 to, today, this has been the second wettest.

I know many of you have have experienced this as well.

A person can only accept what 'Nature' deals.

Still, the cool, and too many cloudy days begin to wear on a body

No worries however, as things are really greening up and bird activity is still at a fevered pitch.

Besides, the sun now sets after 9:00PM here in west Michigan and will do so for the next two and one half months.

Any time the sun sets that late, has the makings of a good day.

Just like that..........

Three weeks and they are gone.

The White-crowned sparrows that is.

It seems so quite now.

The joyful sounds and the busy presence of these birds fill my yard for three weeks (almost to the day) in the spring and again in the fall during migration south.

And they never seem to be quite and rarely still.

Safe journeys and hope to see you in the fall.

Even though the hummers are MIA, I have a real treat right in my own backyard.

At the lot line stands three Norway spruce, and tucked within is the nest of a.............

Green Heron.

I kept watching this bird fly between the homes, so I followed it one day last week.

Yep, right into the spruce trees.

I managed to crawl under and around the trees and spotted the flimsy looking nest.

Now, you would think a bird that is a good 17 to 18 inches in length would construct something a bit more sturdy, but that isn't the case.

Check out the middle of the picture and you will spot an eye.

Try as I may, I can't get a better picture without flushing her
from her nest and duties.

Time will tell if we have baby herons in a couple of weeks.

Speaking of nesting birds,

Our love birds are down to one surviving baby.

Last week I mentioned how one egg was bad and one had hatched.

That poor baby died in a couple of days.

Another egg tried to hatch, but never made it.

I suppose I should have assisted, but it is a learn as we go situation.

The last egg hatched eight days ago and is still alive and growing.

Getting a good picture is next to impossible, as Peaches is one protective and mean, little mother bird.

I cut back some of my Monarda this past week.

I cut it back about half way.

This allows me to have a longer blooming period as the cut back stems branch out and form a shorter, yet bushier plant.

The trimmed plants begin to bloom when the untrimmed and taller parts are winding down.

You can trim back many perennials if you want them to grow a bit shorter and fuller.

Phlox, sedum, turtlehead, (mums of course), helenium and several other mid to late season bloomers can be given a haircut right now.

I'm sure you can do this in warmer climates as well as it often pushes back the bloom time a couple of weeks.

May is "Gardening For Wildlife" month, and I will continue to profile what I believe to be "can't miss" plants for your wildlife habitats.

This week Is a species of native shrubs that offer three and four season interest.

The work horse for any habitat or simply to add beauty to your gardens.



Viburnums, Queen of the Garden.

Is there a Native Viburnum just for you?

At least one species can be found throughout North America except in the Desert Southwest

Viburnums have long been one of the most popular flowering landscape shrubs.

'Versatile Viburnums' , offer at least three seasons of interest.

There is a variety for just about any landscape use or growing condition and no shortage of choices within the species.

There are over 150 species of Viburnum, worldwide.

20 species and their cultivars are from North America, (these are the ones you want to attract more birds and wildlife).

You can find a variety to suit any garden need: wet or dry, sun or shade, natural or formal, shrub or tree, native or exotic.

USDA Zones 2-10.

Bloom times span early spring through June and are followed by attractive fruit and outstanding fall foliage.

Sizes range from a couple of feet to over 25 to 30 feet.

There are shrub and tree forms, with many leaf shapes and textures available.

Cultural Requirements:

Most viburnums prefer full sun but will adjust to partial shade.

They like a moderately fertile with a neutral to slightly acidic soil with pH between 5.6 - 6.6., although many do just fine in alkaline soils.

In general, viburnums are not terrible particular about where they grow.

When selecting viburnum plants, choose a young specimen, since viburnums can be difficult to transplant when they get older.

Early spring is the best time for transplanting, giving them a full season to get adjusted.


Viburnums are well behaved members of the honeysuckle family.

They are either shrubs or trees.

The tree forms may require some pruning to achieve the desired shape.

Viburnums work great as hedges or in mass groupings and also make interesting specimen plants or anchors in borders.

The U.S. National Arboretum has done extensive breeding for hardy, pest resistant varieties.


There is no singular viburnum foliage.

It can be rounded, lance-shape or toothed, smooth, velvety or rough.

There are some evergreen and semi-evergreen varieties and many deciduous varieties with outstanding fall color.


Most viburnums have either white or pinkish flowers which are sometimes fragrant.

The flowers themselves come in three major types:

Flat clusters of florets,

Flat umbels outlined with larger flowers, resembling lacecap hydrangeas.

Dome-shaped, snowball like clusters.


Many viburnums are grown for their berries.

They are produced in a variety of colors and shades - yellow, red, pink, blue and near black.

There are a number that change color as they age.

Though viburnums are monoecious, meaning their flowers have both male and female organs, and thus can pollinate themselves, they don't do a very good job of it.

In 'Nature', pollination usually works better when others are involved!

For the best fruit production, good cross-pollination is a must.

For this reason, it is best to plant two distinct varieties of a given species.

Not only will you be rewarding yourself with the beauty that berries afford, but you'll also be providing a great food source for birds.

Viburnums native to North America donít possess the intense, spicy fragrance of their Asian cousins.

However they do offer a fabulous fall display and abundant fruit clusters, popular with birds and wildlife.

Most are tough enough for hostile urban environments and many are xeric or drought tolerant.

As with all viburnums, they are bothered by few pest problems and possess good disease resistance.

The only pruning required is for removing dead wood and to shape or maintain size.

There are a number of advantages to planting native viburnums.

They are already 'tested' in your area and thrive in your local conditions.

Additionally, native fruits are better at supporting the local birds and other wildlife that would normally feed on the fruits'.

Here are a few popular, tried and true choice for the Native, Wildlife Garden.

Arrowwood Viburnum (Viburnum dentatum)

Zones 3-8,

10' High x 10'Wide

Very adaptable - Native to eastern North America

Grows wild in woodlands, bogs, and along stream banks.

Likes full sun to partial shade

Not particular about soil.

Fast growing and will sucker.

Can be naturalized and is well suited to moist areas.

Creamy white spring blossoms

Foliage is a coarsely toothed, pale green, changing to yellow, red or reddish-purple in the fall.

The foliage is a larval food for several moths and the beautiful spring azure butterfly

Its fruit is eaten by several species of birds, including: bluebirds, cardinals, mockingbirds and robins and many use the shrubs for nesting and protection.

The name 'Arrowwood' is given to this shrub as American Indians would fashion arrow shafts from the straight, woody branches.

Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago)

Zones 2-8,

12' High x 10' Wide

Prefers moist shade, but will weather sun and dry soil.

Lacecap type flowers in creamy white bloom in mid- to late May

Fruits pass from green to yellow to pink and finally deep blue.

Swamp-haw Viburnum (Viburnum nudum)

Zones 5-9,

12' High x 6' Wide

Grows wild from Long Island to Florida. Does equally well when cultivated.

Full sun to partial shade.

White flowers in late June, followed by clusters of round drupes that start out green and pass through shades of white and pink to finish a midnight blue.

The shrub is particularly attractive when it has fruits in various transitional colors.

Foliage turns reddish-purple in the fall.

Hobble Bush (Viburnum lantanoides), formerly known as Viburnum alnifolium

Zones 4-7,

8' High x 12' Wide

Native to northeastern to mid-Atlantic North America

Tends to grow a bit disorderly and is probably best suited to a naturalized setting.

Branches will take root wherever they touch soil.

It is an understory plant that likes moist, shady woodlands

Flat umbels of white flowers in May, followed by red fruit clusters that age to the typical blue-black.

Leaves are large and fuzzy.

One of the earliest viburnums to develop their fall colors of reddish golds.

Maple-leafed Viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium)

Zones 4-8,

3-6' High x 4' Wide

Populates woodlands from New Brunswick to North Carolina.

Not an aggressive grower and would be fine in a border planting.

Canopy is open and casts only dappled shade.

Can tolerate dry shade.

Flat umbels of creamy white flower in late May, followed by almost black fruits.

Turns an unusual pink in the fall.

It is a larval food source for the spring azure butterfly as well as a nectar source for the golden-banded skipper.

Hosts of song and game birds grapple for the fruits.

American Cranberry Bush (Viburnum trilobum or Viburnum opulus var. americanum)

Zones 3-9

15' High x 12' Wide

Bright red fruits that look a lot like cranberries and persist well into the winter.

A favorite of many song and game birds

Although the fruits are not cranberries, they are edible and safe for humans and are sometimes used to make jelly.

Makes a good screen or hedge

Fall color is a rich burgundy.

Grows wild from New Brunswick through British Columbia and south to New York through Oregon.

The species is not well suited to warmer zones below zone 7.

A favorite in my Michigan habitat.

Several cultivars are offered for this attractive species, including a dwarf.

Black-haw Viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium)

Zones 3-9,

12' High x 8' Wide

Fine in shade or sun and tolerates dry conditions. Doesn't like salt.

Makes a good substitute for crabapples.

Distinctive for its pebbled bark, the red stems of its leaves and the yellow stamens in its white flowers.

The dark blue fruits make a nice jelly, but they are usually devoured by birds or wildlife.

Fall foliage is red to purple.

There you have it.

A bit of information on the what many refer to as the 'Queen of the Garden'

Strong, versatile, attractive shrubs for just about any garden.

Native hardy.

Natural beauty.

At least one variety for you native gardens.

Attractive for people, pollinators and birds.

You can't go wrong with native Viburnums.

If you don't have any yet, I strongly recommend getting a couple of different viburnums for your wildlife gardens.

You can thank me later :-)

Well., it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is a reminder that next week's letter will come on Tuesday instead of Monday (Memorial Day).

Now here is your positive thought for the week.

God Bless.

"Jesus is the God whom we can approach without pride and before whom we can humble ourselves without despair.Ē

Blaise Pascal (French Philosopher 1626-1662)

This is good..........

Now pay close attention to this.

God lifts us up.

He gives us more of His Grace.

"Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you"

James 4:10

How good can it get,?

God Bless.

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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