When daphne’s dreamy fragrance fills the room

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Daphne… its subtle fragrance can fill a room.

Gardening writer CEDRIC BRYANT loves the intense fragrance and winter flowers of daphne.

A SMALL vase of daphne odora, or winter daphne, can add fragrance to a whole room.

Cedric Bryant.

In “The Garden Plants of China”, Peter Valder tells the legend of a Tibetan monk who fell asleep below a cliff and dreamt of an intense fragrance. On awakening, he searched and found the plant, which he named Shuixiang (Sleeping Scent), also known as Lucky Scent, which has been grown in China for centuries.

This is just one variety of about 15 we have growing in our garden. Daphne is widely thought to originate in China, but many more varieties grow naturally in Italy. 

It is easy to tell the difference; the Chinese daphne has large, glossy, evergreen leaves to absorb as much sunlight as possible in the cold areas of China and Tibet. The Italian daphne has small, dull, grey leaves to combat the heat (as do lavender, rosemary and even olive trees). These Italian varieties also flower at this time and some will continue even into December.

In the definitive treatise on the subject, Robin White’s “Daphnes – A Practical Guide for Gardeners”, he lists more than 200 varieties, almost all of which he grew in his English nursery until he recently retired. 

NOW is the time to plant roses. Valentine’s Day is the traditional time to woo a lover with a bunch of red roses, but like many modern roses these are bred for mass production purely for shape and colour; and to hold longer in the florist shop. 

David Austin, one of the most famous rosarians in the world, took the subtle fragrance of old-fashioned roses (the term “old-fashioned” generally refers to roses bred before 1926) and crossed them with modern roses, to give stronger bushes and longer flowering.

Helleborus… the perfect companion to daphne.

HELLEBORUS is the perfect winter flowering companion to daphne. They both flower when little else does. There are about 15 species and well over 100 varieties of colour available. 

They are so easy to grow and if you have never grown a plant in your life before, this is the plant to try. A shady spot underneath deciduous trees is ideal, allowing the winter sun to play on them. 

They spread easily and are almost impossible to kill. Some of mine are growing under a magnolia soulangeana and a Japanese maple. 

Often referred to as winter roses, they’re no relation except in the shape of the flowers. Pictured here is H. “Angel Glow”.

IT’S time to prune clematis. There is plenty of complicated advice out there for different varieties, however I always prune mine back to almost ground level, and have done so for years. 

The purists would be horrified, but my clematis still flower magnificently every spring and summer!

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Cedric Bryant
Trained horticulturist and garden designer with over 30 years experience in the industry.

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