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Ahhhh!

This daphne meatball is covered with hundreds of flower clusters.

The last couple of days have been cold windy cloudy and miserable.

But this weekend was a different story.

On Sunday we sat on the deck.  We basked in a delicious spring-like breeze and inhaled the delightful scent of daphne.

Sweet daphne (Daphne odora) is one of my favorite winter blooming shrubs.  It is low and mounding – almost a little too meatball-like for me.

I’m embarrassed that someone might think I sheared it to look like that.  But, I swear, I never prune it except to extract a sprig to put in a vase.

It is an Asian evergreen that is said to be short lived.  I have had daphnes that lived 20 years or more with no special care, however.

These flower clusters survived temperatures in the single digits with only a little burn.

The white form blooms a week or two later. Both are beautiful in bud.

When they go it is usually due to a wilt disease that progresses quickly.

The shrub appears to be thriving one day and a couple of days later, it is dead as a hammer.

I just learned also that it is poisonous.

So it’s a short lived poisonous Asian meatball.

And against my better judgement, I dearly love it.

For the six winter weeks that it is in bloom, the smell of honeysuckle drifts through my garden.

And that, as they say,  is priceless!

I walk through the back yard almost drugged by the fragrance.  I think about Dorothy and the lion snoozing away in a field of poppies.

I keep walking though.

I realize that I am just a little woozy and I smile.

My Favorite Meatball

Dotsie admires a mature winter daphne in my landscape.

Some of my favorite plants are those that bloom in winter.

Winter Daphne or sweet Daphne (Daphne odora) is near the top of the list.

As the name would indicate, sweet daphne is extremely fragrant.   Since insects are few and far between during the dormant season, daphne doesn’t play around.   Instead she emits an intense honeysuckle-type fragrance that wafts through the garden to attract any insect in the vicinity.

Profusions of daphne flowers are borne in small rounded clusters beginning here in February.  They are usually pink  and rarely white and are preceded by beautiful and colorful bud clusters.

Daphne has Asian origins and attractive glossy evergreen leaves.  The dark green leaves are a perfect background for the light colored blossoms.

The dark evergreen leaves are a perfect foil for the light pink or white flowers. Be sure to scratch and sniff!

Winter daphne is low and mounding – shaped somewhat like a low wide ottoman.   It is one of the few meatball shaped shrubs that I will allow in my garden.

I’ve found this plant to be quite easy to grow.  It tolerates all kinds of soil but seems to need some shade during mid-day in summer.

Unfortunately it is fairly short lived.   My original daphne lived for about five or six years before it died of a wilt disease called southern blight.

I was hooked, however, and so I quickly replanted.  Now I have about six daphnes scattered throughout my landscape.

They are just beginning to bloom now and will continue for about a month.

The smell of daphne ushers in the spring.


 

Oh So Sweet Daphne

I like to bring budded Daphne into the house so it can open and release its lucious perfume indoors.

I like to bring budded Daphe stems indoors to open and perfume my house.


 

Walk out the any door of my house, pause for a minute and take a deep breath.   I guarantee that a sweet fragrance will waft in on the next breeze.  It smells a bit like honeysuckle only less cloying and verrrry pleasant.    Breathe in again and you will immediately contract a serious case of Spring Fever.

The source of this delightful scent is sweet Daphne (Daphne odora).   The Daphnes have been blooming in my garden for a couple of weeks now.  I have one in my front yard and one in my back yard.  These two are enough to supply wall to wall fragrance from late January until early March.

Sweet or Winter Daphne is an Asian evergreen shrub.  It is very easy to propagate from June cuttings but very difficult to find in the nursery trade.  The reason, I think, is that for some reason this wonderful shrub has an undeserved reputation of being difficult to grow.

I’ve found it to be quite easy if soil is well drained and plants are shaded from intense afternoon sun.   On the plus side, that seems to be all of the cultural requirements.  Daphne is extremely drought tolerant.  It needs little or no fertilizer and it will thrive in terrible soils as long as drainage is not an issue.

After blooming, sweet Daphne fills the bill as one of those perfect little green meatballs that so many gardeners love.  It maintains this symmetrical form with little or no pruning and with great age attains a height of about 3′ with a spread up to 4′.   In other words, it is shaped like a beautiful little ottoman.

Sweet Daphne is often listed as short lived.  That usually means you have 10 good years or so before the plant succumbs to Southern blight or some other wilt disease.   I try to make sure plants have good drainage and avoid over fertilizing with nitrogen so that my Daphnes can survive as long as possible.   If a Daphne succumbs to a wilt disease, another one should not be replanted in the same spot because the fungus that causes southern blight is probably lurking in the dirt.

I lost my Mama Plant when she was about 10 years old.  After an interval of mourning, I planted a couple of young Daphnes in other parts of my landscape.  They’ve been focal points in my winter garden for 6 or 7 years now.   They greet me on dreary winter days every time I step onto my porch and take a breath.   Their sweetness reminds me that spring is waiting in the wings.  That, my friends, is priceless.

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