I came across a reference this week which called today’s plant “low key and trustworthy.” Plants do indeed have personalities and this description suits Viburnum trilobum ‘Bailey’s Compact’ to perfection. It’s content to linger in the back of the border for the spring and summer, with its non-descript green foliage and sparse clusters of white blooms. But in October our low key plant gets loud and raucous and while it doesn’t quite become the lampshade-wearing life of the party its bright red foliage does draw attention.
Viburnum is a large family of woody shrubs with a number of species and cultivars in the nursery trade. ‘Bailey’s Compact’ is a smaller version of the Viburnum trilobum species, maturing at 1.5 metres high and wide. It has green three-lobed foliage which is brick-red as it emerges in spring. Growth is very dense and rounded, with the upright stems growing very close together. White flowers are borne sparingly in lacecap-like clusters in late spring. Scarlet fruits follow but birds don’t seem to be very keen on them, so they tend to persist through most of the winter. Viburnum will grow in full sun or part shade, in average soils, with better fall colour being developed with more sunlight. Hardiness is not an issue; this plant will survive down to -40 deg. C.
As I mentioned, ‘Bailey’s Compact’ is a perfect shrub for the back of the border. It’s content to let the other plants around it shine for spring and summer but the orange-red fall colour can be spectacular some years, so plant it where you can enjoy it. Its dense growth habit and relatively small size make it ideal for a low deciduous hedge and it produces leaves right to the bottom of the shrub, something which not all shrubs will do. Not bad for a low key and trustworthy plant.

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