A Gardening Journal

Gold-leaved Wayfaring Tree

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Each blooming branch tip of this viburnum is a whole nosegay.  This is the gold-leaved Wayfaring Tree, and it masterfully coordinates every part, big and small, for a complete and completely exciting ensemble.

 

The flowerbuds are creamier and greener than the white flowers, so when they open, they literally "come out," greeting you with all the more enthusiasm.  And then the yellow pistils, flung wide open in welcome; they're a great match for the color of the flowerbuds.  The bright yellow-green stamen at the center matches the leaves.  Everyone is nodding to and riffing with everyone. 

 

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And then, the leaves themselves.  The veins are recessed and darker green than the in-between, whose brighter color, as wth the open flowers, only accentuates that it is, in fact, in the foreground of the veins. 

 

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There are so many veins towards the base of the leaves that that whole area is a bit deeper-hued.  And it's the lowest part of the leaf too, which its coloring helps accentuate.

 

There's so much shading of the lower or background parts, and highlighting of the higher and foreground ones, it's like this bush took a correspondence course from a cosmetology school.  Thank goodness it hasn't discovered Botox yet.

 

 

Here's how to grow this exceptionally well made-up shrub:

Latin Name

Viburnum lantana 'Aureum'

Common Name

Gold-leaved Wayfaring Tree

Family

Adoxaceae, the Adoxa family.  (The what?  I never heard of adoxa before, either.  Viburnums used to be in the honeysuckle family, but recently adoxa, a small perennial, was the first to be moved to a separate family for important but obscure reasons, and so got the naming rights for that family.  Viburnums, bless them, soon followed.)

What kind of plant is it?

Large deciduous shrub.

Hardiness

Zones 4 - 8

Habit

A broad as well as tall shrub, open and sparsely-branched when young, but full and bulky in maturity.

Rate of Growth

Medium.

Size in ten years

Eight feet tall and wide.

Texture

Planted in front of darker-leaved shrubs, or just with some deeper shade at the back, this shrub's luminous Spring foliage and, when young, open branching are very strongly displayed.  Mature shrubs are dense, and full—think of a morbidly-obese lilac, as wide or wider than it is tall instead of upright and vase-shaped, with foliage about the same size as a lilac, and about the same height overall. 

Grown for

the exceptionally interesting Spring foliage.  The leaves' complex veins are deeply recessed, creating a substantive quilted look.  In Spring they are a warm solid gold, with the veins a bit deeper green.  The gold quiets down in warm weather, so this is a shrub to pay respect to while its Spring show is full-on.

 

the round and slightly-mounded heads of small white flowers, opening from palest yellow-green buds, whose yellow-green centers exactly match the color of the leaves, and whose projecting yellow-tipped pistils are as beckoning as the effervescence of champagne.

 

the tight heads of red berries that (sometimes) develop from the flowers.  These are an exciting accent to the light color of the leaves, which, while they won't retain their full-on gold from Spring, will still be noticeably lighter green. 

Flowering season

Mid-Spring. 

 

Culture

Rich soil.  No viburnum wants to scrounge for water either, especially the gold-leaved cultivars.  Wayfaring tree is more drought-tolerant than is usual for a viburnum, but it would be perverse to plant its gold-leaved form where it might scorch, given how well the scorching would show up against the otherwise-bright leaves.  Plant this cultivar in generous circumstances or don't plant it.

How to handle it

Unless your climate has cool summers, plant this shrub where it gets dappled sun all day, or full morning sun then afternoon shade.  In my experience, the bush is much more slow to establish than a normal viburnum, even with sensationally rich soil and plenty of water.

 

The flowers are lovely indeed, but not fragrant enough that you need to put your nose in them.  So you can plant this big bush at the back of really big beds without too much regret over the loss of nose-to-blossom opportunity.  Thanks to the leaves, it will still be very showy.  The flower heads don't get lost at a distance either: They look like expensive white highlights atop the bright foliage.  

 

Viburnums usually don't need much in the way of pruning; as long as they have the room, just let them keep growing.  

Downsides

Slow when young, and usually only available as modestly-sized youngsters.  A shrub to plant when you have some patience. 

Variants

'Mohican' is the green-leaved cultivar to plant for a particularly good crop of berries, which stay orange for about a month before darkening. 'Variegatum' has showy foliage mottled green and yellow.  'Emerald Triumph' is a bit more compact than the species, also with berries whose bright color lasts a long time.  The species itself can grow as large as a small tree; the "wayfaring" name refers to its natural prevalence (at least in Europe) along roadsides. 

Availability

On-line as well as at retailers.

Propagation

Cuttings or layering.

Native habitat

Europe and all around the Mediterranean.






 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
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