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January plant of the month: Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’

Updated: Aug 28, 2023

With Christmas gone and the lights packed away from Cambridge's front gardens, we all need a little lift in our gardens. While many plants are dormant at this time of year, January's plant of the month is in full bloom. Viburnum x bodnantense is at its glorious best now and will flower from December until March – the longest lasting of any winter flowers.

Also known as Arrowwood Dawn, this hardy deciduous shrub is named after Bodnant Garden in Wales, where it was created in the 1930s by crossbreeding Viburnum grandiflorum and Vibrnum farreri with beautiful results. The flowers look and smell wonderful and are a great addition to modern gardens.

Dense clusters of deep pink, intensely fragrant flowers appear in winter and fade to white over the coming months. These pompom-like clouds of colour contrast beautifully with the otherwise bare stems. Flower stems can be cut and displayed in vases so you can enjoy their scent inside. Underplanting Arrowwood Dawn with bulbs or hellebores can make a real winter feature. Helleborus niger and snowdrops are great choices and will give a wonderful display to brighten the depths of winter.

Arrowood Dawn certainly looks its best in winter but also provides year-round interest. Mid green ovate leaves emerge in spring, followed by small purple berries in Summer. In Autumn foliage burnishes to a vibrant display of orange and yellow. Arrowwood’s flowers provide food for pollinators throughout winter when little else is available.

This easy-going shrub is happy in any well-drained soil and suits West or South-facing aspects in full sun or partial shade. Plant near an entrance, path or by seating on a roof terrace to make the most of Arrowwood’s fragrance as well as its elegant flowers. It can grow 2 metres and high and 150cm wide but once established can be pruned hard/to the ground in Spring to keep it compact to suit courtyards or smaller city gardens. With this much going for it, its no surprise that Arrowwood Dawn has been awarded an RHS Award of Garden Merit. All in all this is an invaluable winter shrub for modest sized Cambridge gardens, suiting both contemporary or more traditional garden designs.

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