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Doublefile Viburnum


Mariesii doublefile viburnum's blooms line up in double-file, as shown in my photo.

Picture: Mariesii doublefile viburnum flowers.

David Beaulieu

Plant Taxonomy of Mariesii Doublefile Viburnum:

Plant taxonomy considers Mariesii doublefile viburnum to be Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum 'Mariesii.' As always, the word in single quotes is the cultivar name.

Plant Type:

Doublefile viburnum is a deciduous shrub.

Characteristics of Mariesii, How It Differs From Japanese Snowball Bush:

Mariesii has white flowers that assume the "lacecap" appearance with which we are most familiar when discussing certain types of hydrangeas (with sterile-but-attractive blossoms ringing a center of fertile-but-insignificant flowers). The shrub blooms during the month of May in my zone-5 landscape. Flowers are succeeded by berries (see below under Outstanding Features).

Mariesii is a fast-growing shrub. At maturity, this multi-stemmed shrub can attain a height of 10-12 feet with a somewhat greater spread. The leaves on the branches line up precisely opposite from each other to form a neat pattern of pairs. The flowers on each branch, likewise, compose two even rows, one on either side of the branch. As a result, an impression of flatness or horizontality is created. The deep, well-defined veining on the leaves give them some character even during the spring and summer. But as with Korean spice viburnum, in fall the foliage can truly come into its own if conditions are right (this won't happen every year), changing to a reddish or purplish color.

A relative of the doublefile viburnum is termed, in common lingo, "Japanese snowball bush." But that common name refers to the species plant, Viburnum plicatum (sans the "var. tomentosum," which indicates a variety or subspecies) and to such cultivars as 'Kern's Pink' and 'Leach's Compacta' (which bear light pink and white "snowball" blooms, respectively). By contrast, Mariesii doublefile viburnum flowers, with their flat appearance, look nothing whatsoever like snowballs.

Planting Zones for Mariesii Doublefile Viburnum:

The species plant is indigenous to the Far East. It is just one of many plants from China and Japan that are now stalwarts in Western landscaping. Mariesii doublefile viburnum can be grown most easily in planting zones 5-8.

Sun and Soil Requirements:

These bushes grow best in full sun to partial shade and in moist but well-drained ground with somewhat acidic soil. Amend the soil with compost.

Uses in Landscaping:

Use doublefile viburnums in loose hedges to create living privacy fences. Because they offer visual interest for more than one season of the year, I consider these bushes showy enough for use as specimen plants. Their white flowers make them useful constituents of moon gardens. Another possible use would be at the edge of a woodland garden where they can receive at least partial sunshine (arrowwood viburnum would work well in such a spot, too).

Wildlife Attracted by Doublefile Viburnum:

Doublefile viburnums are plants that attract butterflies, and because of their berries they are also shrubs that attract birds.

Care for Doublefile Viburnum:

I like to prune my own Mariesii to define its shape a bit. If you do decide pruning is desirable, prune just after flowering, since the bush blooms on old wood.

Outstanding Features:

The flowers that are fertile can yield berries (technically, drupes) in summer. Both the berries and the twigs that hold them are a bright red. I find the berries more attractive at this stage than later on, when their color changes to black. In the summer of 2012, the berries on my Mariesii bush shriveled up and dropped off shortly after they had turned black, perhaps because of the hot weather my region experienced that summer. In cases where the berries persist, they draw birds to one's landscaping.

While the berries and the fall foliage of these doublefile viburnums are both nice, I would have to rate the flowers as their best feature. Not only do they flower in profusion, but they also exhibit an interesting flowering pattern (as described above and below).

Interesting Facts: Origin of Names:

The common name, "doublefile" refers to the fact that the flowers line up double-file (i.e, in two straight lines) along the branches.

In terms of the scientific name of the plant, let's begin with the species name, plicatum. It comes from a Latin word meaning "folded" and refers to the deep veins in the leaves, which remind one of folds. The subspecies or variety name, tomentosum gives us the little-used English word "tomentose," which means "downy" (i.e., covered in little hairs). The reference is to the small hairs on the young stems. Finally, the cultivar name, 'Mariesii' derives from a man's name: Charles Maries.

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