The winter daphnes (Daphne odora ‘Marginata’, below) have managed only a few weak blooms near the ground where flower buds were protected from the worst of winter’s freezes, by snow or perhaps just by ground warmth. Though the uppermost buds were damaged, and foliage dropped completely, there are numerous growth buds that are clearly green, so the daphnes will suffer no long term setback. Winter daphne is the least cold hardy of the daphnes in the garden, and with damage to so many evergreens from the horrid winter I was concerned that these would suffer more. Fortunately, they have not.
Other daphnes show no sign of trouble, though the foliage of ‘Carol Mackie’ (Daphne × burkwoodii ‘Carol Mackie’, below) also dropped, which isn’t unusual in any winter when temperatures fall below five degrees. There were handfuls, or possibly even dozens of days hovering just above and below zero through January and February, and even into mid March. Winter daphne is a zone seven, cold hardy only to zero, while the others are tolerant of another twenty degrees colder.
With few flowers, the fragrance of the winter daphnes is not overwhelming, but ‘Eternal Fragrance’ (Daphne transatlantica ‘BLAFRA’ , below) is now flowering and ‘Carol Mackie’ is nearly at full bloom, and I’m certain that on the first still afternoon there will hardly be a spot in the garden where the scent will not be evident. While the fragrance is delightful, the waxy pink to white flowers are not exceptional on any of the daphnes. In fact, the flowers of ‘Carol Mackie’ are pleasant enough, and the excellent variegated foliage is less coarse than winter daphne’s, but all are treasured for their scent first, and foliage and flowers more as an afterthought.
New to the garden this year is Rose daphne (Daphne cneorum, below), with diminutive foliage and clusters of tiny flowers. I’ve had poor experiences with small leafed rhododendrons requiring exceptional drainage, and Rose daphne appears so similar to these that I took particular care to keep these away from any soil that could possibly remain damp for more than a few minutes. While all daphnes are reputed to be persnickety, the dwarf is supposedly more so, though I’ve not had any problems with daphnes at all.
On this next still day, there will be a variety of scents wafting through the garden since the fragrant viburnums are also flowering. Typically, one follows the other, but now both Korean Spice (Viburnum carlesi, above) and Burkwood viburnums (Viburnum x burkwoodii, below) are in full bloom. With the strong fragrance of daphnes and viburnums, and redbuds and dogwoods in full bloom, this next week will be particularly delightful.