Daphne odora “Leucanthe Alba” – Winter Daphne
Fabulously scented, waxy, white flowers from white buds, cover this bush in early spring.
This is a spreading, slow-growing, evergreen shrub growing to about 1M tall. This variety is unusual in being, to my knowledge, the only Daphne whose flowers open from pure white buds, the others all opening from pink buds. The name translates from the Greek as “fragrant laurel”, and a single sprig indoors will fill a room with scent. In Korea, the plant is poetically called “churihyang” – a thousand-mile scent.
D. odora comes from the Himalayas of Nepal and China, though they have long since naturalised in Korea and Japan. It is found in thickets and forest margins up to 11,000 ft, where it is deciduous. The other major garden Daphne species is Daphne bholua, usually found in the form of D. bholua “Jacqueline Postil”. And a popular hybrid of these two species, Daphne Perfume Princess was actually bred here in New Zealand by Mark Jury.
Soil / Aspect:
Daphne prefer acidic soil and do not tolerate being water-logged. The leaves will yellow in too much sun and too much shade will reduce flowering. And since they do not tolerate being moved you really only get one chance with each plant. If you have the choice it is probably best to give this one a little morning sun, rather than let it bake in the summer afternoons in Karin’s garden. It abhors root disturbance so it should not be under-planted. Some people have success with this as a pot plant, which allows it to be brought to a “sniffable” position near a door when in flower; but this does require a large pot with the right rhododendron compost and grit mixture, in just the right situation.
This is not an easy plant to propagate, though semi-ripe cuttings are the thing to try. Prune lightly after flowering, but do not cut back beyond the second live leaf. In any case this is not a long-lived plant, few lasting over ten years in a healthy condition, so it is best to plan succession whilst your current plant is in its prime.