On occasion, two variegated winter daphnes (Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’, below) flower late in January, though more typically in early March, and a time or two not at all when a severe winter kills the flowering branch tips of this marginally cold hardy shrub. This year, two degrees below zero (Fahrenheit) was enough to damage leaves, but not so harsh that flowers were lost. Still, rather than flowering early in the month, blooms have begun opening at the tail end of March.
The midwinter flowering time is preferred, of course, at the time when there are many fewer blooms, but also because flowering coincides with a mild winter. Despite the moans and groans of gardeners, and the general populace I suppose, the winter that is thankfully just past was very average, though inconvenient timing pushed many flowers weeks later than usual.
Not unusually, buds of long flowering, hybrid daphnes (Daphne x transatlantica) showed signs of blooming in February, lacking only a single week of mild temperatures to show color that came the second week of March. With a few scattered flowers by mid March, ‘Summer Ice’ (above), ‘Eternal Fragrance’, and the similar ‘Jim’s Pride’ (below) will remain in some state of bloom until November.
Gardeners concerned by the reputation for fickleness of daphnes are advised that these are the easiest of the lot, more hardy for colder zones, and a bit more accepting of varied conditions. Admittedly, the precise formula for daphne happiness remains a secret, but ones that thrive in this garden do so in well drained soil in partial sun. One area of the garden has proven to be a success, so as many daphnes as will fit are crammed into this space, with more to come as lesser plants are excised.
‘Carol Mackie’, a splendid variegated leaf daphne that flowers in April in this garden, is off and on difficult, with one substantial shrub slowly diminishing in size in recent years, and another questionably taking hold in the shade of a redbud. Both defoliated completely this winter, but they are beginning growth with flower buds evident.
A daphne relative, paperbush (Edgeworthia chrysantha, above) is cold hardy to zero degrees (Fahrenheit), but flower buds are often injured below five degrees. Following a drop this winter to two below, some damage to flowering is seen, but enough flowers remain to satisfy. A word of warning is necessary for the gardener who gives paperbush a try. References state its mature size as four to six feet wide and tall, but the three largest in this garden are a bit more that six feet tall, with a spread of more than ten feet (one to fifteen).
Certainly, I have no complaint, and even after if was necessary to prune damaged branches back to three feet five or six years ago, the shrubs quickly rebounded, regaining their full size in two years. Though I am challenged to enjoy any of the garden’s scents, daphnes and paperbushes are among the treasures of this garden.