Sweet Fragrance of Daphne

    • Potatoes can be planted any time now. Choose from red, white, yellow and purple varieties.
    • Cut back suckers on lilac bushes. Wait until they bloom to prune them, then you can bring the fragrant branches indoors.
    • Bare root fruit trees, grape and berry vines, and ornamental trees and shrubs are still available.
    • Plant seeds of broccoli, cabbage, lettuce and other spring vegetables now.
    • Start peas and sweet pea seeds indoors now. You’ll be able to plant the sprouted seeds on the next warm day.

Fragrant Winter Daphne

The sweet fragrance of Daphne is one of the pleasures of springtime. The small, evergreen and deciduous shrubs which make up the Daphnes, all have handsome foliage and numerous white, rose or lilac flowers that bloom in the spring. One stem will scent an entire room.

Of the 50 species of daphne, Daphne odora, winter daphne, is the most familiar. It is an evergreen shrub growing to about four feet tall in this area, and at least as wide. In early spring, clusters of one-inch flowers appear at the tips of the stems. The pink buds open to white or pale pink flowers that are intensely fragrant, with a citrus-like odor. The leaves of winter daphne can be solid green, or bordered with a pale yellow edge. It makes a very neat, handsome, evergreen shrub year-round. Plant it in a spot where it gets protection from the hot mid-day sun.

Less common is the Garland daphne, Daphne cneorum. It makes a choice rock garden plant, staying low, about a foot tall, and spreading to three feet wide. Its trailing branches are covered with small, narrow, dark green leaves. In April and May, masses of fragrant, rose-colored flowers open in clusters at the tips of the branches. It is probably the showiest of all the Daphnes, and has a sweet, intense fragrance.

This daphne also likes partial shade. Mulch underneath the plant with peat moss or potting soil to encourage stem rooting and the development of a larger clump. It also makes a good container plant. The variety ‘Ruby Glow’ has larger, more deeply colored flowers and often re-blooms in late summer.

The wonderfully fragrant ‘Carol Mackey’ Daphne is not easy to find but it is a real garden gem. From pink buds, it’s fragrant white flowers open in the month of May. This daphne is similar in growth habit to Daphne odora, but has smaller, variegated leaves.

Daphnes need air around their roots, so they must be planted in light, well-drained soil. Put a little dolomite lime in the hole at planting time. If you don’t have fast-draining soil, you can grow them in containers for many years.

Plant daphne where it will get at least three hours of shade a day. Be sure it is set so the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface. Daphnes will tolerate acid soil but do not require it. Fertilize right after bloom with a complete fertilizer, but not acid plant food.

During the summer, water as infrequently as the plant will allow. Light watering in summer increases flowering next spring and helps prevent sudden death from water mold fungi.

Prune daphne just after it finishes flowering to shape the plants. All parts of daphne plants are poisonous, and deer seem to leave them alone.

Daphnes are slow to take off but once they do they are generous in flower and fragrance. Enjoy the sweet fragrance of daphne in your garden, or make a gift of one to a friend.

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