A daphne to die for

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Perhaps a slight exaggeration, but I am so fond of the winter Daphne that it is one of the few plants I do not intend to give up on; in fact, the one blooming at present in our garden is actually my fourth attempt in the last ten years or so, in trying to raise a specimen which will maintain its beauty and vigor, thus becoming a long term asset. While this latest one seems to be the most promising, I do at times wonder as to why I can’t seem to let go of this finicky, yet irresistible plant. Is it because I am hung up on correcting the mistakes made in the past, or is it the unforgettable scent the flowers emit, or is it because the shrubs bloom during wintertime when few would have the gumption to do so? Maybe it’s a combination of all three, but as far as I am concerned, being able to grow a winter Daphne successfully is worth the patience it takes.

A handsome shrub, noted for bearing fragrant flowers, Daphne odora ‘Aureo-marginata,’ commonly known as the winter Daphne, is evergreen in nature, offering year-round interest in the garden. Whereas the simple glossy leaves add a striking appearance to the plant, the mature specimens stay compact since the plants are fairly slow growing, thus making them very versatile. Furthermore, as the name ‘Aureo-marginata’ suggests, the irregular yellow streaks along the margins of the leaves make the shrubs look even more attractive.

It is a blooming shrub, however, which makes one spellbound when towards the later part of winter, tucked between the whorls of leaves appear tight clusters of purple-pink buds, delightfully surprising a first-time Daphne grower; what follows is even more extraordinary as the tiny star-shaped flowers open, releasing the sweetest, most heavenly scent. The total experience is truly one of a kind!

To grow a Daphne successfully, it is the location that has to be chosen carefully, for once planted, the plants simply hate to be moved. This is perhaps one of the main reasons I did not have much luck with my first three trials. Wrong location. Daphnes are certainly not plants of open fields, rather need to grown at sheltered, shaded sites where they can be protected from extreme cold and hot weather; the soil needs to be well-drained, too, which is why it is recommended to plant the shrubs slightly above the ground level, and to make sure to provide adequate moisture during hot, dry spells.

Keeping my optimism high, I do have a good feeling about the current specimen, since the shrub, though only a few years old, has been procured from a vendor who happens to specialize in raising Daphnes. So as to improve the drainage of our clayey soil, I added some pea gravel at the bottom of the planting hole while setting the plant a little higher above the soil line, in addition, of course, to selecting an appropriate site. Hopefully, this one is here to stay.

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