This Month in the Garden (April 2021) with Derek Cox

I love my Daphne’s and over the last 30 years I have grown, or tried to grow over 27 different varieties. You will note the word tried to grow as I have found many, especially the prostrate mountain forms to be very tricky plants to grow, many of these would grow and then after around five years they would produce a mass of flowers then suddenly die.

I have even given up on our native deciduous Daphne mezereum, which for a number of years produced masses of pink, fragrant flowers during April and May. Suddenly this was stricken with a virus which caused the leaves to turn an odd yellowish colour, after then it seemed reluctant to grow and produced so few flowers that I disposed of it.

Now I have just six varieties growing in my garden and all are evergreen. Daphne tangutica is the oldest being 40 years old, it has small dark green leaves and white flushed purple flowers during May and again in July. This even now is only two feet (60cm) tall and so far three seedlings have appeared in my border.

Daphne laureola is also native to most of Europe and this has large, glossy, laurel shaped leaves and amass of small greenish-yellow flowers during February and March. This also produces a mass of black berries which the birds distribute throughout my garden, so as a consequence I have seedlings which appear generally in the shade beneath other shrubs.

Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ is a super form of this Himalayan species that produces rounded heads of fragrant white, tinted purple flowers during February and March. As a consequence I grow this on the West side of a group of shrubs to prevent frost damage; ‘Jacqueline Postill’ is the tallest Daphne I grow, eventually attaining between six and seven feet (1.8 x 2.4m).

Daphne odora ‘Walberton‘ pictured left, is a low, but broad form of this lovely Chinese shrub whose green leaves has a broad yellow margin. This produces terminal clusters of rose-purple flowers during March and April and as a consequence this is a shrub that gives me enjoyment throughout the year. Four years ago I had an almost pure yellow branch sport appear on ’Walberton’ and wonder if this would now be worth introducing.

Daphne x whiteorum is the only prostrate I have left in the garden, this forms a mat only two inches in height but two feet across (5cm x 60cm). It has small, dark green leaves and clusters of pink flowers from late April until early June.

In the past I have mentioned my love of alpines and amongst these I have many Saxifrages that flower from late March until Early June. My main love are those with silver encrusted leaves, but all are very attractive in flower as you can see by the photograph left.

My Cyclamen coum usually flower just after Christmas, but this year they are late and one cluster with red flowers is even growing in the middle of a Dianthus.

I must admit that always telling people to put the right plant, especially trees and conifers in the right place so as not eventually be troublesome to yourself and your neighbours. I also dropped a clanger when five years ago I planted a whip (single three feet (90cm) stem) of Betula olbosinensis ‘China Rose’ only three feet (90cm) away from a variegated Japanese maple. The whip and the maple grew so well that by the time ‘China Rose’ was eight feet (2.4m) tall I realised it had to come out. Talking about this to Caroline who is my lady gardener, she said that she and her partner Jay would lift it and take it to plant at the Aviary (bee keeping area) at Brooksby College. ‘China Rose’ is a birch whose old bark peels away to reveal a pinkish coloured new bark. The bees will love the catkins which appear in March/April.