Vibernum carlesii flower. Scratch-n-sniff!I’m not sure I should admit to how much time I spend thinking about my own garden while I’m working in this one. I can’t help but distractedly eyeball all of the plants that I want for myself. Why is that? I’m surrounded by thousands of beautiful plants here at work – why do I have the burning desire to have so many of them at home too? I guess gardening must be more obsession than profession – probably people in other lines of work are more able to separate themselves from it when they go home. (Booksellers might have a tough time too, come to think of it…)

Viburnum carlesii outside the North GardenBut then it can hardly be helped – what is a public garden for, if not to bring home ideas? Right now Viburnum carlesii (Koreanspice bush also known as Mayflower viburnum) is at the top of the list of plants on the property for which I would pay full price. Michael Dirr, in his Manual of Woody Landscape Plants says, “A garden without a viburnum is akin to life without music and art.” – so obviously my garden shouldn’t go another day without one.  Dirr does imply in Viburnums: Flowering Shrubs for Every Season that the Koreanspice is rather pedestrian as viburnums go. But with such a perfume, who wouldn’t want one of their very own?  Viburnum carlesii 'Compactum' and Tulipa 'Elegant Lady'The shrubs are also pleasingly rounded, dense and typically 4-8′ tall – ours are in the 6-8′ range. They can take sun or shade (I imagine they are more floriferous in the sun) and a range of soil conditions – excepting wet according to Dirr. They are hardy from USDA zones 4-8ish. A couple of years ago we planted V. carlesii ‘Compactum’ in the Rose Garden and that’s the one for me. Not only is it a dwarf that grows only to 3-4′ but it was introduced by my great-grandfather’s friends and colleagues at Hoogendoorn Nurseries in Middletown, RI back in 1953.

Anne Raver, mentions Koreanspice bush in this NY Times article about attracting pollinators.  She noticed that as delicious as the scent is to us, her bee population was not as hungry for it. I feel strongly, like she does, about planting natives – which are generally more attractive to our wildlife – and so my plan is, for every exotic I plant in my garden, I’ll plant two natives. How’s that for justifying some serious plant shopping this weekend?

Highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum)Fothergilla gardenii 'Blue Mist'Carolina silverbell (Halesia carolina)Full moon cut leaf Japanese maple (Acer aconitifolium)

Do thoughts about your garden distract you while you’re at work? What’s at the top of your full-price wishlist right now?

Japanese flowering crabapples (Malus floribunda)

“There is of course no such thing as a green thumb. Gardening is a vocation like any other – a calling, if you like, but not a gift from heaven.”                                            – Eleanor Perenyi (1918-2009)