Daphne

Choosing the best daphne for year-round colour and scent

With cultivars to give flowers throughout the year, even during the colder months, the recurring theme of daphnes is scent. Here, Andy McIndoe chooses the best daphnes for year-round interest.

For those of us bewitched by the magical power of their fragrance, daphnes are impossible to resist. They may not be the most robust garden plants, and they may make you work to meet their demands, but your senses will convince you they are worth it. Here are some of the best daphnes for year-round interest.

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Winter flowering

1

Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’

A photograph of Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill'

An evergreen cultivar with leathery, mid-green leaves that is strong growing once established. Large clusters of mauve-pink flowers cover the plant for weeks from midwinter into early spring. The fragrance is powerful, sweet and delicious, even on cold days. It was raised at Hillier Nurseries by propagator Alan Postill and named for his wife. Height 1.8m.

2

D. mezereum f. alba

Daphne mezereum f. alba

A deciduous shrub with upright stems and small, narrow green leaves. The starry, highly fragrant flowers cluster on stems in winter before the leaves appear, and are often followed by yellowish berries. Needs chalk soil to thrive.Height 90cm.

3

D. odora Rebecca (= ‘Hewreb’)

Daphne odora 'Rebecca'

A surprisingly robust form of D. odora with green leaves, boldly edged with creamy gold. A showy foliage plant it has the bonus of fragrant winter flowers. A better garden plant than previous cultivars with a similar variegation. Height 1m.

4

D. bholua ‘Darjeeling’

Daphne bholua 'Darjeeling'

A semi-evergreen shrub with tan-coloured stems and pointed mid-green leaves. Clusters of fragrant, pale-pink flowers, which fade to white, appear from early winter. The original was raised at RHS Wisley from seed collected in Darjeeling. Height 1.8m.

5

D. bholua ‘Limpsfield’

Daphne bholua 'Limpsfield'

Rich purple-pink flower edges merge into white faces Blooming from midwinter and heavily fragrant, it is a good evergreen shrub to grow close to the house in a sheltered position. Height 1.8m.

6

D. bholua ‘Peter Smithers’

Daphne bolua 'Peter Smithers'

An evergreen or semi-evergreen shrub. In midwinter, clusters of deep, purple-pink buds open to paler blooms, which then become darker with age. Selected at RHS Wakehurst Place from seed Sir Peter Smithers collected in Nepal. Height 1.8m.

Spring and summer flowering

7

D. caucasica

Daphne causcasia

Small, deciduous shrub, which blooms from late spring well into summer, sometimes into autumn. The clusters of white flowers are fragrant and often followed by yellow fruits. Best grown in dappled shade on moist, acid soil. Height 1.2m.

8

D. pontica

Daphne pontica

A small, spreading, evergreen shrub that is happiest under the light shade of trees and tolerant of heavy clay soils. Glossy green leaves show off the large clusters of fragrant, yellow-green flowers that are produced freely in late spring. Height 60cm.

9

D. x burkwoodii ‘Astrid’

Daphne x burkwoodii 'Astrid'

A rounded, bushy shrub with narrow, blue-green leaves finely edged with creamy yellow. Clusters of fragrant, pink flowers, appear from late spring through to midsummer. A good shrub for foliage interest. 60cm.
10

D. cneorum

Daphne cneorum

A dwarf shrub with prostrate branches and narrow evergreen leaves. The large clusters of sweetly fragrant, pink flowers appear in mid to late spring. Often tricky to establish, it needs a sheltered, open situation on chalk soil. Height 15cm.
11

D. x burkwoodii ‘Lavenirii’

Daphne x burkwoodii 'Lavenirii'

A cross between D. cneorum and D. caucasica that was raised in France in 1920. Has clusters of extremely fragrant, pale-pink flowers, darker in the centres, from late spring well into summer. A spreading shrub, it grows best on alkaline soil. Height 60cm.
12

Daphne x rollsdorfii ‘Wilhelm Schacht’

Daphne rolsdorfii

Bushy and upright in habit with glossy, evergreen leaves this small shrub has particularly showy clusters of highly fragrant, purple-pink flowers in mid-spring. Grows on alkaline or acid soil. Height 45cm.

Where to see

  • Brandy Mount House, Alresford, Hampshire SO24 9EG. Tel 01962 732189.
    Open by appointment. Home to National Collection of Daphne, held by Mr Michael Baron.

Where to buy

  • Junkers Nursery Ltd, Higher Cobhay, Milverton Somerset TA4 1NJ. junker.co.uk
  • Larch Cottage Nurseries, Melkinthorpe, Penrith, Cumbria CA10 2DR. larchcottage.co.uk
  • Pan-Global Plants, The Walled Garden, Frampton Court, Frampton-on-Severn, Gloucestershire GL2 7EX. panglobalplants.com

Words Andy McIndoe

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Photography Dianna Jazwinski