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Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2007


Gamazumi (Viburnum)

Bare trees start drumming with the wind, Pink trumpets burst from twigs and Fling sweet, bright notes into the air. And a heron, listening from his post In the willow, claps his gray wings: Winter syncopation.

By Linda Inoki

The gamazumi, or viburnum group of plants, provide a lovely splash of color and perfume in winter. They include the deciduous shrub V. farreri, pictured above, which is a native of China. From early winter until spring, its bare branches burst into clusters of shell-pink buds that open into small, trumpet-shaped flowers. The pale flowers are certainly attractive, but it is the fragrance that is outstanding: They smell like lily of the valley and daphne combined. This shrub is named after an eccentric English botanist named Reginald Farrer (1880-1920), who was passionate about discovering and conserving plants. After graduating from Oxford University he began to travel, and lived in Tokyo for eight months. Later, he shocked his family by becoming a Buddhist. In 1914 he went on a two-year plant-hunting expedition in the dangerous, remote mountains of northwest China, and it was there that he found this bush. Sadly, Farrer died on a grueling expedition in Burma and his servants threw away the seeds he had so carefully gathered. Nevertheless, his work lives on in gardens around the world, where this lovely shrub brightens our winter days.

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