Gardening where the sidewalk ends

C’mon, Daphne! February 22, 2009

Filed under: shrubs,winter — greenwalks @ 8:17 am
Tags: , ,

The previous gardener at our house planted a variegated daphne odora in a rather funny place, partway under the back porch, behind the railing. It kind of sulks there like a grumpy old dog, ignored for much of the year. I would move it, but I’ve heard daphnes really resent being dug up and they usually die if you try this.

So, every winter, I wait, and wait, and wait for it to bloom and make itself worth putting up with the rest of the year. It got some frostburn (is that the right word?) during the super low temps this winter but otherwise it seems to have survived.  Although I do wonder if someone has been snacking on it – there are big chunks of some leaves missing and I hadn’t noticed that before. I also worry about it in summer, when it gets blasted with sun for much of the day – I’m afraid to water it much as daphnes can resent over-watering.

It also seems to have fewer flower buds on it than usual – I wonder if that’s weather-related as well? Here is one, tantalizing me with its promise but so far refusing to open.

Daphne odora flower bud

Guessing the variety of inherited plants is always kind of a challenge. Does anyone know what this one is called? I’m wondering if it is ‘Aureomarginata.’ If so, here is some info about it from the Northwest’s “Great Plant Picks” program.


20 Responses to “C’mon, Daphne!”

  1. Megan Says:

    Daphnes are a mysterious bunch. I’ve been afraid to try them because of their finicky reputation, but I finally got one last year. Yours looks pretty and healthy though, so you must be something right with it. I’m not sure what it is, but I love the light edging around the leaves.

  2. Jen Says:

    I always get Aureo margnata, and Carol Mackie mixed up. Did you try googling them?

    We had a huge one in the greenhouse, and ever Feb. when we went back to work it would greet us with the most wonderful scent. It lasted for ages, and made going back to work much better.


    • greenwalks Says:

      Hi Jen – Glad you got to inhale that fabulous perfume for such a stretch. I think Grace is correct, it is Aureo marginata, since Carol Mackie has more rounded leaf tips and mine are pointed.

  3. Melanthia Says:

    I saw several Daphne at the NWFGS. They sure are lovely, but they sound a bit high maintenance! Still, I’d love to add one (a few?) to our garden areas.

    • greenwalks Says:

      Hi Melanthia – I think they do okay here if you put them in the right place and treat them as they wish. Such a sweet smell on a late winter day, when they finally open!

  4. Grace Says:

    Yes, this is definitely Daphne odora ‘Aureo Marginata.’ I have the same plant–two of them in fact in separate areas of the garden. Both have buds but no flowers opening yet. My garden pal Carol (who lives about a mile away) has a daphne behaving the same way–buds that are not opening. I’m positive it’s weather related. My suggestion with your daphne is the same advice I got a few years ago when one of mine was beginning to ail. When it’s finished blooming sprinkle and work a little lime into the soil and a bit of slow release fertilizer. Water it in. I followed this advice and mine sprang back just fine. I’m sure you’re wise not to move it and just ignore it for the rest of the year. When mine was going through its mysterious sulking, I went to Home Depot and bought another one just in case. Now I’ve got two that thrive. Go figure. No summer water seems to be the secret.

    • greenwalks Says:

      Hi Grace – Thanks for the advice! I am not a big fertilizer person (hm, perhaps a reason for sulky plants?) but I may try your advice. I’m just afraid to do anything to the plant, thinking it will kick the bucket! Cool that you have two!

  5. Curmudgeon Says:

    The ones in our neighborhood are in the same way–tantalizing buds, but refusing to open. WN decided to spy on the competition yesterday so we headed up to Swanson’s. Their daphne’s looked just like the ones in the neighborhood–no open buds yet. Oh, and the price tag just about gave me a heart attack–$70. Now I remember why we don’t have one in our yard!

    • greenwalks Says:

      Hello Curmudgeon – Does WN know how to propagate from cuttings? If so, you guys are welcome to come and snip a piece of my daphne to see if you could grow it (for free). $70? That’s Swanson’s for ya. Love that place, but can’t afford it anymore. Funny that you were spies! Can you believe how much they’ve put into the renovations in the past few years? It’s barely recognizable anymore!

  6. Catherine Says:

    Our daphne lost a lot of leaves this winter, but it still does have some buds. They are taking forever to open though. I think I might try Grace’s advice too.

    • greenwalks Says:

      Hi Catherine – I think I’m just being impatient. It seems like it opened earlier last year, but I don’t have any record of that so it’s probably not true.

  7. Jocelyn Says:

    I had a great daphne that I had to move (twice!) when we remodeled. It survived the moves just fine, only to give up the ghost when I forgot to open the valve on the dripline that watered it. 😦

    • greenwalks Says:

      Jocelyn – Well, you must just have the amazing daphne touch! Practically everyone else I’ve heard of said a move killed theirs. Yours must have been a rambling (and strangely thirsty) soul. RIP!

  8. Michele Says:

    Mmm. I love how they smell. One little sprig can scent the whole room. I had one at my old house that thrived and was in the perfect spot. The one I have now seems stunted and not very vigorous. Maybe because it is along the fence where the dog chaces the squirrels, hmm.

    • greenwalks Says:

      Michele – When in doubt, it’s always the squirrels’ fault! Another commenter here, Grace, had some daphe advice, maybe we should try it and see if it helps them perk up a bit?

  9. Sue Says:

    I can’t help you with the plant, as I don’t think I’ve heard of it, but I think it’s pretty!

    • greenwalks Says:

      Hi Sue – Winter daphne is a pretty common plant around here, I saw a ton of it this week both in Seattle and Portland. It can be kind of fussy but people put up with it for its lovely fragrant blossoms in late winter. The smell is heavenly!

  10. easygardener Says:

    They have a wonderful fragrance don’t they. They don’t seem to like waterlogged conditions or drought. I do know the evergreen ones can be susceptible to frost and cold winds so a sheltered position is best. If you don’t think it’s thriving then it might be worth moving it.

    • greenwalks Says:

      EG – I am terrible about moving plants so it will probably just stay where it is. It does bloom every year and I do nothing to it, so maybe I should just count my blessings.

  11. Molly Says:

    Carol Mackie is very different from aureomarginata. I have both, as well as some other daphne from Heronswood, whose cultivar name I can’t recall at the moment. I’m positive yours is aureomarginata. It looks exactly like mine, except that mine doesn’t have a single bud this year.

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