Hello Fellow Readers, I am thrilled to report the robin mentioned last week did indeed nest in the Doublefile Viburnum outside our kitchen window. Perhaps the same robin that nested there last year. They say they can return to a spot if they’ve had successful broods prior. It turns out both momma and poppa robin are involved in the homemaking and childrearing, though momma robin plays the primary role in making the nest and sitting vigil on the eggs.
I adore the shrub they call home. It was my dear Sara’s favorite nap spot long ago. A small angel sculpture sits there now with two tennis balls formerly in play. Sara was a serious ball-aholic, unlike our rescue Miss Ellie, though I giggled when she grabbed a tennis ball for a toss or two from time to time.
It’s a common mistake to plant young plants too close to the foundation. It would be best if you considered the mature width and height and space accordingly. I did just that. Per Michael Dirr, the guru of trees and shrubs and author of the Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, Viburnum plicatum tomentosum ‘Mariesii’ grow eight to ten feet tall and nine to twelve feet wide at maturity. A twelve-foot wide shrub means it will grow six feet on each side of the trunk. So, planting Sara’s viburnum eight feet from the house was appropriate, providing a two-foot buffer for wiggle room. Besides, I knowingly chose the plant to train into a small tree by limbing it up, meaning pruning off the lower branches. That way, I could plant shade-loving perennials and ferns below.
I think Sara’s mojo may have boosted the growth. Her Doublefile Viburnum is far more significant than the anticipated size despite annual pruning. In general, once a plant reaches the desired size, you can prune the new growth each year right after they bloom to maintain its size. Every year I do just that, and every year it quickly grows back and then some.
I adore how her branches are broad-reaching like the arms of a graceful ballerina. She’s in full bloom now, with snowflakes of flowers dancing atop her limbs. While I don’t wish to rush things, I love when the flower petals fall, leaving what looks like tiny angels dancing on the glossy maroon leaves of the Palace Purple Coral Bells planted below (Heuchera micrantha’ Palace Purple’).
This year’s annual pruning will have to wait until after Mr. & Mrs. Robin’s babies fledge the nest, about fourteen to sixteen days after they hatch. There’s no rush. Instead, let’s relish the miracle of life. Garden Dilemmas? AskMaryStone@gmail.com
Column Updated 4/11/21
Speaking of viburnum- You’ll enjoy a previous column titled Reasons to Prune and Episode 16 of the Garden Dilemmas Podcast, which features the baby robin story.