If there are two things that go together like cookies and milk, it’s viburnums and Dirr. In fact it was Dr. Michael Dirr himself that wrote that ‘a garden without viburnums is like a life without the pleasures of music and art.’ He forgot chocolate, explicitly, but we’ll include that as ‘art’. In celebration of Dr. Dirr’s newly released, phenomenal, and earth-shaking (literally, it weighs like 9 lbs) tome Dirr’s Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs, I thought it fitting to wrap all these festivities into Day 1 of the Plantsman’s Advent Calendar under the banner of Viburnum plicatum, the familiar and beloved Japanese snowball viburnum.
This ‘aristocrat among flowering shrubs’ , to quote Dirr himself, earns its reputation for avalanches of snowy white flowers in the mid- to late spring. Cultivars abound in size and form, though I’m personally partial to ‘Popcorn’ and the dwarf ‘Newzam’ (Newport®), with the former taking top honors as ‘the best’ from the man himself. For those gardening without one, it’s hardy to USDA Zone 5.
Viburnums and Dirr share an Iowa connection in Dr. Eugene Kaufmann of Ridge Road Nursery near Dubuque, Iowa. Affectionately known as ‘Doc’ to his friends and clients, he’s the chief viburnum sage of the Upper Midwest. I had the great pleasure of interviewing him for a project a few years back that you can read about here.
To wrap this up, I can’t help but offer a few words of praise for this wonderful epitome of a life’s work that represents the most comprehensive, best-illustrated, and most-authoritative reference on trees and shrubs for the landscape. With over 3500 photos, 3700 species and cultivars, and clocking in at 951 pages, this would-be piano weight deserves a place of honor as the horticulturist’s new ‘physician’s desk reference.’ Even after a decades-long career in public horticulture, Dr. Dirr continues to steward plantsmanship with his matter-of-fact commentary, blunt as it may read, and his trademark opinions on the woody plants of our trade. With all due respect to his near biblical, best-selling Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, why settle for black and white when you can behold Acca to Zenobia in full color?
Since you’re not settling, you might as well click over to the Timber Press blog and try for a shot at your own copy. Timber Press is giving away a copy on Friday to a lucky commenter. Here’s the fine print: No purchase necessary. One winner will be chosen at random. Open to residents of the U.S. and Canada, 18 years or older, as of 11/28/2011. Entries must be received by 4 p.m. Pacific Time on 12/2/2011. Void where prohibited.