The first daphne to get my attention was growing against a wall in a friends garden in Badsey. It was a small shrub devoid of leaves but with the stems covered in mauve flowers. I asked the name - Daphne mezereum . I was offered a cutting and planted it in my garden. Surprisingly it rooted well and grew into a shrub which died a couple of years ago now - aged nine. The acquisition of this plant aroused my interest in the daphne genus and the following year I added D. burkwoodii and D. laureola. These have proved to be easy to grow, although D. laureola is beginning to look rather bedraggled. However, D. burkwoodii was a very good plant having highly scented flowers in spring. Unfortunately I planted the original too near a path and so once I had successfully rooted some cuttings I removed it. I have since added several named varieties to my collection of which 'Somerset' is, in my opinion, the best. Other varieties I have grown include 'G K Argles' and 'Albert Burkwood', but 'Carol Mackie' has not been successful.
Other daphne species I have grown with varying degrees of success are of the D. bholua group. I have a nice plant of D. bholua 'Jacqueline Postill' and a new introduction from Ashwoods, D. 'Glendoick' is doing well. The attractive white form, 'Alba' is not so hardy and I have not been able to establish it outdoors at Badsey. Other bholua varieties I am trying are 'Peter Smithers' and 'Darjeeling'.
Daphne tangutica is a fully hardy shrub with highly scented flowers. A bonus is the red berries which germinate readily when the flesh is removed from the seed. My original plant is now in its tenth year and is a sizeable shrub. Daphne x hybrida is less common but is fully hardy and evergreen. It is a cross between D. odora and D. collina which Robin White reports as a lax, virus-prone plant. Mine is a fine upright shrub now six years old!
Another easy species is D. odora of which the variety 'Aureomarginata' is easily obtainable from good nurseries and is an attractive hardy shrub. Other variegated forms are now available and 'Geisha Girl' and 'Sakiwaka' are established in my shade border. Another variety sometimes found in nurseries is 'Walberton' which is claimed to be more floriferous than 'Aureomarginata'.
Two daphnes which are rather distinctive and which are not the easiest to establish are D. jezoensis and D. genkwa. The former is one of the few daphnes with pure yellow flowers, and I have managed to establish one in my alpine house. D. genkwa has intense purple flowers on bare stems. I have yet to succeed with this species.
Two of the less spectacular are D. pontica and D. albowiana. They have yellowy-green flowers and I find them to be quite interesting and easy to cultivate.
These plants can all be seen growing in my garden at Badsey. I hope this article will inspire some of you to grow one or two of the more unusual species I have mentioned.
First published in the Worcestershire Group Newsletter Spring 2006
and subsequently in Cornucopia Issue 23
© Copyright for this article: Hugh Blundstone
This article was taken from a copy of Cornucopia that was published in 2009. You could be reading these articles as they are published to a national audience, by subscribing to Cornucopia.