Viburnum carlesi is one of the most sought after viburnums because of the intoxicating spicy scent of its flowers in spring. It has other advantages, in that it is shade tolerant and can withstand exposure to the toxins in black walnut trees. Its only shortcoming is a less than exciting, fall color, at least compared with some other viburnums, but that does not seem to affect its popularity. The difficulty is that, although it supposedly grows 4-6 feet high, it can grow considerably larger, to easily 8 feet, a size which many newer gardens cannot accommodate. Because of the incredible demand for this shrub, there are now more cultivars available, one of them being Viburnum carlesi 'Compactum'. Like all of the carlesi types, its growth rate is slow to moderate and it is 4 feet tall by 4 feet wide.
Also see: ‘Diana’, ‘Aurora’ and ‘Spice Baby’.
Viburnum trilobum, also known as American Cranberry viburnum, is another popular and easy to find shrub. It’s fruiting, flowering and fall color are all outstanding. Oddly enough, according to Gary Ladman of Classic Viburnums, the original plant is long gone, and since the 1920’s all American Cranberry bushes are in fact cultivars produced for superior fruiting and flowering. Viburnum trilobum typically grow 8 feet tall by 8 feet wide. Viburnum trilobum 'Compactum' grows half the size of the original. In fact, compact trilobums seem to be popping up everywhere, because they are a landscaper’s favorite. Viburnum trilobum compactum ‘Spring Green’ (4 feet by 5 feet) has an outrageous fruit set. I owned one, and it berried like mad without a pollinator. That is a characteristic of this plant, and makes it rare amongst trilobums. 'Spring Red' is 5 by 5, and oddly, produces very little fruit. 'Alfredo' is 5 to 6 feet high and wide with spectacular red fall color. It was lost but Gary Ladman of Classic Viburnums managed to get some cuttings and is reintroducing it. There is a tiny, tiny one called 'Jewell Box'. It is 18 inches tall and 24 to 30 inches wide. The good news is that it is small enough to fit on driveways. The bad news is that flowering is minimal, although fall color
Viburnum dentatum, also known as arrowwood dentatum, possibly because it is said that its light but flexible wood produced superior material for the construction of arrows. It is a large, hardy, somewhat suckering (but amenable to severe pruning) shrub and makes an outstanding hedge. It is one of the easiest to grow, thriving in any soil, sun or shade, moisture or dryness, high ph or low. It is also salt tolerant, and deer leave it alone. The mature height of the species and several early cultivars is 12 feet high and 12 feet wide. I grew 'Chicago Lustre', a dentatum with beautiful shiny leaves (the species has matte leaves) which reaches this stature. It produces flat topped white flowers in the spring followed by large clusters of blue/black berries (stand back as the birds go to town). Its size limited its usefulness but now dwarf cultivars have been developed. One of the new kids in town is 'Fireworks', a plant growing a comparatively diminutive 6-7 feet tall and 4-5 feet wide. 'Papoose' is 4 by 4.
Viburnum opulus, also known as European cranberry bush, is not commonly seen but is a spectacular shrub. Growing 8 to 15 feet, it has spectacular flowers, great fruit set, and fine fall color. I grew one in Lake County and had difficulty acquiring one here, since they are not in garden centers and the small number of growers have a small supply which is rapidly consumed. V. opulus 'Compactum' is a rounded shrub that reaches 5-6 feet high. It produces glorious scarlet red fruit that persists through most of winter. One of the best things about this lovely plant is that it fruits reliably and generously without a pollinator.
The king of tiny is probably V. opulus 'Bullatum' which Gary Ladman of Classic Viburnums notes comes from the Chicago Botanic Garden. Like a typical opulus but with smaller leaves, it is said to be 2 feet by 2 feet! He notes that Viburnum trilobum, 'Jewell Box' (above) and Viburnum opulus 'Bullatum' are the smallest growing viburnums of which he is aware.
With all these many choices there is no reason not to explore this beautiful and enduring genus.