In 1794, Thomas Jefferson included "gelder rose" in his "objects for the garden this year."1 On April 16, 1807, Jefferson further documented the planting of this shrub on the northeast and southeast shrub circles of Monticello Mountain.2 He also lists the "gelder rose" in his 1804 plans for a garden or pleasure grounds.3 Other common names include Whitsun-boss, Elder-rose, Guelder-rose, Love-roses, and Pincushion-tree.
This sterile (fruitless) garden form was known in Europe by 1554 and has been a garden favorite ever since.4 The flowers, described in 1770 as "balls of snow, lodged in a pleasing manner all over its head,"5 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 1806 The American Gardener's Calendar.6
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 that become purple-tinted in autumn.
Primary Source References
1791 May 8. (Jefferson to Maria Jefferson). "May 4. the gelder rose, Dogwood, Red bud, and Azalea were in blossom."7
1807 March 10. (Thomas Main to Jefferson). "2 Snowballs @ Do. [25 cents] .50."8
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 ...."9