Snowball Bush Viburnum

Common Name: Snowball Bush Viburnum, Whitsun-boss, Elder-Rose, Guelder-Rose, Love-Roses, Pincushion tree[1]

Scientific Name: Viburnum opulus

In 1794, Thomas Jefferson included "gelder rose" in his "objects for the garden this year."[2] On April 16, 1807, Thomas Jefferson further documented the planting of this shrub on the North East and South East shrub circle of Monticello Mountain.[3] He also lists the "gelder rose" in his 1804 plans for a garden or pleasure grounds.[4]

This sterile (fruitless) garden form was known in Europe by 1554 and has been a garden favorite ever since.[5] The flowers, described in 1770 as "balls of snow, lodged in a pleasing manner all over its head",[6] have inspired other common names such as Whitsun-boss, Love-roses, and Pincushion-tree. Bernard McMahon included "Viburnum opulus americanum Guelder Rose-leaved Viburnum," in his American Gardener's Calendar (1806).[7]

This shrub is a hardy, deciduous, late spring-flowering one with large, showy, spherical clusters of white or green-tinted white, sterile blossoms that sometimes turn pink and leaves become purple-tinted in autumn.

Primary Source References[8]

1791 May 8. (Jefferson to Mary Jefferson Eppes). "May 4th the gelder-rose, dog-wood, redbud, azalea were in blossom."[9]

1807 March 7. (Thomas Main sold to Jefferson). "2 Snowballs @ Do. [25 cents] .50."[10]

1812. (Planting Memorandum for Poplar Forest). "plant on each bank, right & left, on the S. side of the house, a row of lilacs, Althaes, Gelder roses..."[11]

Footnotes

  1. This article is based on a Center for Historic Plants Information Sheet.
  2. Betts, Garden Book, 208. Manuscript and transcription at the Massachusetts Historical Society.
  3. Betts, Garden Book, 334.
  4. See Coolidge Collection of Thomas Jefferson Manuscripts at the Massachusetts Historical Society.
  5. Alice M. Coats, Garden Shrubs and their Histories (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992), 204.
  6. William Hanbury, A Complete Body of Planting and Gardening(London: printed for the author; and sold by Edward and Charles Dilly, 1770-71), 198.
  7. Denise Wiles Adams, Restoring American Gardens: An Encyclopedia of Heirloom Ornamental Plants, 1640-1940 (Portland, Oregon: Timber Press, Inc., 2004), 132 and McMahon, 596.
  8. Please note that this list should not be considered comprehensive.
  9. PTJ, 20:380.
  10. Ibid, 342.
  11. University of Virginia.

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