Each Month I will show you the plant or tree that is shining a light for me. This month is the turn of Daphne Odorata.
If Daphne were a celebrity, it would be Michelle Obama. This is a plant that has style, class and inhabits her space well. It’s always presentable and never straggly.
Daphne is slow growing but a strong and resilient plant. It throws out a humongous scent and for all to enjoy for many of the dankest winter months. On a crisp warm February day, the scent of a Daphne can carry 10 metres. The plant forms a tidy dome shape and it doesn’t seem that prone to pests and diseases. Wherever it’s appropriate I slip this plant into a garden. I feel it is an absolute superstar and an integral part of my plant arsenal.
Daphne was the first investment plant that I made all those years ago. I’d not think twice about buying 3 perennials for £5 (it was 12 years ago) and seeing how they got on but then I encountered a Daphne in a clients garden and was beguiled. Every plant nursery I went to, Daphne would taunt me but was never cheaper than £20 for a 10 cm branch. Bear in mind, I am quite an experiential learner and when I started gardening I killed A LOT of plants. So on a depressing February day, I bought my first Daphne odora aureomarginata and proudly took her home. Ten years later, she tumbles over her 90-litre pot sitting proudly behind my garden table and chairs. She’s a stalwart in my garden and a mood lifter in the winter months.
Daphne’s generally like the more sun the better but they will tolerate partial shade. In my experience, it flowers from October to March. If you are lucky enough for your Daphne to become overgrown, then they do take a prune and you can cut back to bare wood but make sure you do this in spring and feed generously afterwards. This is a plant I would always place by an entrance/ walkway/ front garden to maximise exposure to the scent.
It’s very exciting to see that a lot of plant growers are propagating different varieties. I got a Daphne x transatlantic ‘Eternal Fragrance’ and planted it up in Autumn. Unfortunately, at the same time, the local fox decided to taunt my terrier by marking the garden and I am not sure my new Daphne (or any plant) can tolerate a high-speed terrier trample as the fox and dog play out this dance. I also sent one to my mum. In a house with 8 dogs and a donkey that likes to ‘prune’, I am not sure that Daphne will have it much easier but we will see.