February Grow Your Own

...February

‘Early spring flowers’ with Daphne species and varieties

Daphne webMake February fun this year! Make it your mission to choose some fabulous flowering shrubs that will look wonderful from winter into spring and really drive away the blues. Finding and buying them will be exciting too and when the conditions are right you can get them planted in readiness for the coming seasons.

Late winter flowering daphne species and varieties should be top of your list. Daphne mezereum won’t let you down when it comes to fragrant flowers. Their purplish-pink hues contrasting with their bare branches will really tell you that spring is coming. For white flowers, choose Daphne mezereum alba. Another great option is Daphne odora, an evergreen shrub (only hardy to -5oC) which produces deep purple-pink and white flowers from the middle of winter into early spring. As the name suggests, they have an instantly recognisable scent. Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ has leaves with creamy-yellow edges, bears red-purple flowers and is slightly hardier.

A wonderful fact of nature is that early flowers tend to be particularly fragrant because of their need to attract the few pollinators that are about. If you can site your daphne in a sheltered position you’ll get more value from the richly scented flowers.

Daphnes aren’t too difficult to please in terms of site and soil requirements, but soils should neither dry out nor become waterlogged. Extremely acidic soils will not be suitable. Sun or partial shade is equally suitable which means that they can be grown near trees. Other possibilities would include a rock garden or shrub border.

Shrubs of this size are perfect for most gardens because they don’t take up too much space. Daphne mezereum has an upright habit of growth and will normally reach no more than 1.2m in height and a spread of 1m. And as with the best garden plants, it isn’t just early spring flowers that they deliver. Flowers are followed by attractive fleshy red fruit (inedible), yellow in the case of Daphne mezereum alba.

There are some great planting combinations which you can experiment with to get even more enjoyment out of daphnes. Spring bulbs including snowdrops, crocuses or pale early narcissi are a perfect complement to them. Winter flowering heaths (for example Erica carnea) also make good partners.

Maintenance is simplicity itself: just trim back any untidy shoots after flowering. Otherwise they will look after themselves very happily.

Material courtesy of www.the-hta.org

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