Plants for Winter Fragrance: Daphne

As we head toward the short, dark days of deep winter it is a good time to begin exploring those plants that work hard for us when most other varieties are awaiting milder conditions. One such group of plants is the Daphne: a genus native to Asia, Europe and North Africa which offers evergreen and semi-evergreen foliage and above all, particular varieties that give fabulous fragrance in late winter and early spring.

For wonderful, large clusters of pink flowers in early spring, the strongly fragranced Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ is a popular choice. A much sought-after variety, it is a hardy form, reaching an eventual height of 4-5ft. Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ produces flowers with a wonderfully heady fragrance from January to early spring and has lovely, evergreen foliage edged with gold. Daphne odora ’Cameo’ is another fabulous option for midwinter colour when small clusters of pink, highly scented flowers appear. Daphne odora ‘Perfume Princess’ is a showy new hybrid with larger flowers than other species and divinely fragranced flowers in the dark days of midwinter. If you are looking for a neat, dwarf variety then Daphne laureola philippi would make an ideal choice. Reaching a height of 12 inches, it has oval, deep green, glossy foliage and dense clusters of yellow-green, fragrant flowers from February until March. A variety which offers a prolonged season of interest is Daphne ‘Eternal Fragrance’, with its flushed pink, tubular, star-shaped flowers that punctuate the air with a lovely, sweet fragrance from April through to late August. A compact shrub which grows to a height of 90cm, it makes a good choice for the middle of a mixed border.

Most Daphnes will do well in neutral to alkaline soil as long as it is well-drained and rich in humus. If you are growing on sandy soil then incorporate plenty of organic matter before planting. Having deep roots, daphnes may not thrive in containers but if you are planning to grow one in a pot make sure that you choose a deep container and place it away from strong sunshine so that the roots don’t bake. They will not tolerate waterlogging or drought and resent root disturbance, so plan carefully where they are to be planted and you will be rewarded with wonderful sight and scent in the midst of winter’s short days.

Daphne transatlantica 'Pink Fragrance'

(Blog post written by Jo Chamberlain)

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