FOR FRAGRANCE AND BEAUTY
If you enjoy fragrance and a colorful flower display in your garden, take a good look at the various varieties of daphnes. They are especially popular plants in our garden because of their fragrance, interesting leaf textures, attractive flowers and varying growth habits.
The different species of daphnes flower at various times of the year, so by using more than one type you can enjoy their fragrances and flowers for many months. However, it is important to know that the various species do have varying cultural requirements, so it is important to satisfy their needs in your garden.
Daphne cneorum - sometimes called the 'Rock Daphne', 'Rose Daphne' or 'Garland Daphne'. This one is a favorite at the Hume residence. It gets its name 'Rock Daphne' because it is often grown in rockeries. This plant also does well and is very attractive in raised beds; border plantings and as a container plant. I think this is the showiest of all the Daphnes. The April and May rosy-pink flowers absolutely cover the plant, providing a massive flower display, that has a sweet, intense fragrance.
This variety only grows about 12 inches high, but may spread to 3 or more feet in width. If the plant is lightly sheared after flowering, it will sometimes flower again in the autumn. The other benefit of shearing is that it helps keep the plant compact and encourages more prolific flowering. Daphne cneorum grows and flowers best when planted in full sun, in soil that is well drained.
Daphne odora - this Winter Daphne' is probably the second most popular variety. It has a bushy growth habit, eventually attaining a height of up to 3 or 4 feet and, if crowded, occasionally taller. Here in the Pacific Northwest this plant often begins flowering in late February or early March and may continue into April. The pinkish-purple flowers are not too noticeable, because they are somewhat hidden by the attractive evergreen foliage.
It is important to note that this type of Daphne needs to planted in a spot where it gets protection from the hot mid-day sun. An eastern location or similar spot is ideal. In addition, this one is not quite as hardy as the others, and may need to be given some cover protection, should temperatures dip below 25 degrees. Frost or sun burn, will show-up in a blackening of the tips of the leaves and in severe cases the leaves are apt to drop from the plant. The dark green evergreen leaves often have a cream-colored margin along the outside edge.
Daphne somerset - personally, I think this is one of the most overlooked of all the Daphnes. It is sometimes referred to as Daphne burkwoodii. Flowers are pinkish-white and have an intense fragrance. In my garden it flowers in the late spring and again later in the summer.
If there is one drawback to this plant, it is that it loses some of its leaves during the winter dormant season. So in other words, it is semi-evergreen. It has a more upright habit of growth, and eventually attains a height of about 4 to 5 feet, sometimes more if crowded. In my garden, it does best in partial sun and shade, although I have seen it in other gardens in full sun. I have not grown the variety 'Carol Mackie', but have seen it in other gardens. It has attractive variegated leaves and white buds and flowers. It's certainly one I plan to eventually add to my garden.
Daphne mezerum - also called the February Daphne, it was extremely popular 50 years ago. In recent years it has suffered disease problems and has lost favor in Northwest gardens. It has a stiff upright habit of growth, with waxy, purple fragrant flowers. It is deciduous, so the February flowers stand-out on the bare branches. Flowers are followed by berries, which are poisonous.
Daphne retusa - another nice dwarf variety of evergreen Daphne. The whitish to rosy-purple flowers are fragrant. It is not as spectacular as the others, and a little more difficult to find.
Daphnes benefit from an application of lime at planting time. Dolomite lime is especially beneficial because of the sulfate of magnesium it contains.
If pruning is needed, the best time is right after they have finished flowering.
Late winter or early summer is the best time to feed them. Use a rose type fertilizer. Be sure to apply the fertilizer on the soil, out at the drip-line of the plant, then water-in thoroughly.
When preparing the planting soil, always prepare a large planting hole, mixing-in generous amounts of organic humus, in the form of compost or processed manure. This plant has a prolific root system so they need plenty of new soil in which to become established.
When you place the Daphne into the new planting soil, be sure it is set so the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface. Then mulch lightly with bark or sawdust for added winter protection.
I hope you will take time to become familiar with these fragrant, colorful, interesting daphnes. Probably one or more of them will have a place in your garden, just like they do in ours.