The smaller the garden, the more we look for plants that provide more than one season of interest. As one of my college professors used to say, two weeks of glory may not be enough to justify planting a particular tree or shrub in your garden.
This afternoon, when I got home I was struck by the dark burgundy fall foliage on my Snowball Bush Viburnum, Viburnum opulus 'Sterile'.
Prior to noticing this, I might have said that this shrub really only had a few interesting weeks in the spring, when it is fully in bloom.
Compare this Viburnum's fall foliage with the fall foliage of a Common Lilac, Syringa vulgaris 'White Angel', on the other side of the back yard.Yawn. Nice green, huh? This lilac blooms in the spring, too. Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of this exact lilac in bloom but here's a picture of a popular lilac, Syringa patula 'Miss Kim', blooming in another part of the yard earlier this spring. Imagine that same bloom only in white, which is what color this particular common lilac's blooms are, and a few less blooms on the plant.
So which shrub is the better one to plant?
Before you decide, consider also that I see many more birds nesting and roosting in the Viburnum than the Lilac, though neither provides any berries for the birds to eat. And between these two large shrubs, at least in my garden, the Viburnum has a much better shape.
Wait, don't decide yet! You should also consider the nostalgia factor. They say that we are more likely to remember scents, and the lilac bloom has a wonderful scent. This particular Viburnum has no scent at all. But growing up, I remember my grandmothers had the big Viburnums with the snowball sized blooms. I don't remember them having lilacs. But you may have stronger memories of lilacs in bloom.
Still thinking about which one to choose?
One more time, this is the Viburnum fall foliage close up.
This is the Lilac fall foliage close up. Now choose! Common Lilac or Snowball Bush Viburnum. Take a stand!
(My apologies for the pictures taken before sunset on a very cloudy day today!)