Daphne’s winter flowers make you smile

August 21, 2015

Inspirational quotes can give you a fresh look a life and help you see the wonder in the world around you.  A personal favourite is by one of the foremost yoga teachers in the world, B K S Iyengar.  He said “Healthy plants and trees yield abundant flowers and fruits.  Similarly, from a healthy person, smiles and happiness shine forth like rays of the sun”.   I reckon he’s right but I also think that abundant flowers and fruits on healthy plants can make us happy and smile.

One plant that always yields abundant flowers at this time of the year is the Daphne.  Just when you think you have had enough of winter you rediscover the beautiful and intoxicating fragrance of this garden gem.  Daphne always makes me happy and smile.

Daphne also loves traditional Ballarat winters and also thrives in our soils.  Plant daphne in your front garden and in a  few year they will have grown and provide a wonderful welcome to everyone who enters your garden.  Daphnes fabulous fragrance is very powerful and will give you a lift as soon as you enter the garden.

Daphne has the most amazing floral scent.  Just a small posy picked and placed on your coffee table  will waft through a whole room and mesmerize you with its light sweet spell.   Pick a small bunch today and when you come home its scent will remind you that spring is just around the corner.

If you don’t have room in your garden for a Daphne, plant one in a pot.  Place it on your patio where it will get some rain over winter or just keep it watered and you will have beautiful flowers each year.

The one thing you need to get right with Daphnes is drainage.  If its in a pot you won’t have a problem.  If you are in Alfredton or other flatter areas around town, you will need to make sure you address drainage issues.  Just mound up your garden bed and mix in heaps of well rotted compost before you plant.  They prefer medium loamy soils and even our clayey soils (similar to rhododendrons) which is why they do so well around Ballarat.

Daphne will handle morning sun and more so long as it has a cool moist root run.  Just give it shelter from the baking midday and afternoon sun in summer and strong winds especially hot northerlies.  Find a sheltered spot and you will be rewarded.

Once established Daphne is quite dry tolerant.  Mulch well and make sure no mulch touches the stems.  Water infrequently during summer to encourage flowering next winter..

Daphne odora is native of Japan and China and is the most fragrant of the Daphne group.  At home it grows in the shade of trees at altitudes up to 1000 metres.  Find dappled shade conditions in your garden and your Daphne will thrive.  The flowers of Daphne are quite small and simple, shaped like a star with only 4 petals.  The buds grow in clusters on the ends of branches.  Although the buds are dark pink, the flowers open with white throats with the faintest pink at the edges.  The variety “Alba” has pure white flowers.  Although the flowers are beautiful you don’t grow Daphne for the flowers.   No it’s the smell.

If it seems like I am going on a bit there’s a reason.  I was surprised to find not everyone knew of Daphne.  Daphne is one of the reasons we all live in a cool climate.  Whether you have a cottage garden or a contemporary garden you need some Daphne.  In contemporary gardens mass plant it in a woodland area under some pear trees  or similar.  The flowers and foliage work well with those contemporary chocolates, mocha and cream colour schemes.  If you are a native enthusiast you are in real luck because as Daphne finishes flowering Boronias start to bloom with their incredible perfume.

If you love Daphne consider some of the other species.  There are several small leaved and large leaved daphne varieties available.  A recent release Daphne ‘Eternal Fragrance’ (Daphne x transatlantica) is a little more tolerant of sun than others.

Daphne Cneorum is a beautiful dwarf species with gorgeous pink flowers.  Daphne x burkwoodii, Daphne collina and Daphne Genkwa are also worth looking for.

Daphnes generally aren’t long lived plants so consider a replacement after 10 to 15 years as they tend to decline after this.  The odd one or two do fail mysteriously due to Daphne wilt but otherwise they are fairly pest and disease free so long as they have good drainage and you don’t move them.

The only thing to be wary of with Daphne is the fleshy stems can be a bit brittle.  If left unpruned, you may find it has a tendency for larger, longer, heavier branches to split.

Daphne doesn’t like root disturbance.  Once you plant it don’t move it.  So just make sure you plant it where the dog won’t trample it and the painters wont squash it.