Daphne – Popular Shrubs for the Garden
The daphne most usually seen is our native Daphne mezereum, the Mezereon, now rare as a native plant, but easily obtainable from nurseries. It is an old ‘cottage garden’ plant, grown for the sake of its sweetly-scented purplish-red, that smother the twigs in February and March and often into April. Round red fruits follow in autumn and these provide a ready means of increase. It grows about 4 feet tall, tolerating most soils, except very dry ones, and it does well on the chalk and in partially shaded situations.
There is a fine white-flowered variety alba, a pink form rosea, and a form, grandiflora, producing larger flowers a good deal earlier.
Not all daphnes are so easy to grow. Daphne X burkwoodii, a semi-evergreen hybrid, about 3 feet tall, with very fragrant pale pink flowers in May and June, is not at all difficult.
It is also worth trying the variegated leaf form, Daphne odora aureo-marginata. This is harder than the species and is an evergreen, slow-growing to perhaps 3 feet, although much depends on and situation. Like other exotic daphnes, it prefers a well-drained, though moisture-retaining loam. Peat and leaf-mould dug in before planting may do something towards ensuring success with this aristocratic plant, although shelter from frosts and cutting winds is probably more important.
None of the daphnes described here requires, unless it is to remove frost-killed wood.