Guaranteed to produce gasps of wonder or grimaces of
despair, Daphnes will always inspire comment with their exquisite
fragrance and beautiful flowers! I should warn you that they are
addictive (a bit like Acer, Cornus...............!)
There is such tremendous variety in shape, size and
colour that there really is a Daphne for every site and with this
versatility, it is almost possible to have continuous flower and scent
all through the year.
Where should I plant
They have a reputation for being difficult to grow,
but we believe that by considering their natural habitat or by grafting
them, we can give you good garden worthy plants. Their biggest
requirement is a constant moisture level at the roots. If they dry out,
the roots will die almost instantly and if they are too wet they will
develop all sorts of nasty fungus problems! Thus, the challenge is to
find a moist, well drained soil which does not dry out in summer. The
first part is more important, since it is easier to add water in the
summer if necessary than it is to take it away in the winter! Summer
drought can be eased to a major degree by ensuring that the roots are
shaded or by mulching. However, avoid organic mulches in favour of
gravel to prevent too much wetness around the stem in winter which could
cause it to damp off at ground level. This will allow plants to be grown
in full sun that might otherwise need light shade for the sake of the
Acid or alkaline is not usually an issue but
consideration should be given to site. For example, D. cneorum
comes from the mountains on poor stony soils. It would be unlikely to
thrive in heavy shade in leaf mould. Conversely, woodland plants like
D. pontica would not be happy on the rockery. Remember that Daphnes
tend to root straight down - they rarely go out sideways. Thus when
planting, ensure they have opportunity to develop a good deep root run.
As their roots descend, they will more easily survive the vagaries of
the English summer.
Can I grow them in a
Daphnes are notoriously difficult to grow in pots due
to their precise water requirements. Many will be happy, indeed, effective for a season,
but the problems start when they need potting on. Compost in a pot will
slump - ie it will become stale and loose the air pockets between the
particles of compost which leads to waterlogging. Not good news for
Daphnes. Unfortunately, they dislike root disturbance, so repotting is a
risky business. Of course alpine enthusiasts have their own techniques
which can result in some truly beautiful plants in pots, but it is not
for the faint hearted!
How do we grow them
on the nursery?
We grow them on capillary beds which provide this
moist but free draining situation fairly well. The plants which we sell
are in 1 or 2 litre pots depending largely on the variety. Some Daphnes
are slow growing and eventually will only be the size of a football.
Inevitably, these cultivars will be relatively small when acquired. They
will however, be well established young plants, not just rooted
cuttings. They are best planted as soon as possible after you receive
them. If you tease out the root very gently and make the planting hole deeper than
usual, it is possible to give the roots added depth straight away. This
will help the water situation. All our Daphnes are now grown in a soil
based compost. This minimises the difference between the growing media
in the post and the soil into which it will be planted, by comparison
with a peat based compost. Thus your Daphne should grow away more
readily. However, you do need to handle them more carefully. The soil
based compost lacks the "string bits" in the peat based mix,
so does not hold together in quite the same way as you remove it from
it's pot. A good watering before you try tipping it out will help
release it and is good practise prior to planting anyway.
Larger plants for
Changing to a soil based compost for Daphnes has also allowed us to pot
some on to give more immediate effect. The different compost seems to
work so much better, which is great news as so many of you have
expressed an interest in larger plants. This first season will see
various Daphne bholua available, which should also flower next
How do we propagate
The majority will be grafted (it is probably obvious
from the prices which are not!) We generally use D. tangutica as a
hardy, evergreen rootstock which is one of the easier to grow. Some
people use D. mezereum but we cannot agree with this since it
freely produces suckers which need to be removed and it cannot help to
graft an evergreen plant onto a deciduous rootstock! We find that most
Daphnes will root readily enough, but persuading them to grow away
subsequently is another matter. Therefore, by growing them onto an
established vigorous rootstock, they grow away much more quickly. Thus
although they may seem to cost a little more, we would like to stress
that they are good strong plants which should thrive in the garden!
We have tried to make the choicer, more alpine types
into useable garden plants rather than specialist plants for the
collector. However, as a result of grafting, they are not suitable for
growing in tufa or similar.
In my efforts to comply with current naming policies, I have followed
Plantfinder. The particular area of change is the introduction of
species names for the new hybrids. So instead of a variety of unrelated
cultivar names, they are now grouped by their breeding origins (ie
parentage) under a specific epitaph. This should make things clearer in
the long run, but in the short term it does make it harder to find
plants which were previously known only by their cultivar name.
Please be aware that the sap of Daphnes can cause
irritation to sensitive skin. The berries are also toxic. I am required
to remind you not to eat them!
There are never half measures with Daphnes, they
either do or die! If it does not thrive, get on and move it. If
necessary, keep moving it until it does thrive!