My Determined Daphne

About ten years ago, when I redesigned my front yard, I planted a winter daphne (Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’) in front of the seating area under my now-departed crabapple tree.

Daphe odora 'Aureomarginata', winter daphne

Visible just behind the weeping yew in the front of the photo, my daphne has persevered through all kinds of weather, including snow in April 2007.

I planted it because I had a shady front yard, a high-profile location I wanted to fill with a specimen plant, and most of all because I loved the way this plant smells when it’s in bloom, usually in late March or early April. Heavenly.

What I didn’t know at the time was that very few daphnes grow to maturity looking like the one in the link here. Many, if not all, of the ones I’ve planted or encountered, develop a strange tendency to start growing horizontally. Mine is so “sideways” now that much of its “trunk” lies on the ground, and most of the foliage branches are propped up on the flagstone landing in front of the bed. Recently, a deer (I think) stepped on it in the center, breaking off a big chunk of the shrub.

Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata', daphne growing sideways

Ouch. Whatever roundish shape the daphne had before has been severely compromised, to say the least.

I winced and cut off the broken branch, then tried an experiment to see if I could “force” cuttings from the broken piece to bloom inside. No luck, as you can see.

Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata'

This is as good as it got. A couple of days later, the leaves started yellowing and falling off, while the buds stayed determinedly shut.

Over the years, as my daphne has gotten older, harsh winters have made me think it’s about to give up the ghost.

Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata'

In a real snowstorm, shortly after it was planted. Plucky little thing.

But to my surprise, when bloom time comes, in late winter, it perks up and lets forth with its gorgeous scent, determined to give me another season of bloom.

Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata'

My daphne's buds, starting to open.

Now that my front yard is sunnier, I don’t know if the daphne will survive the sun’s onslaught.

Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata'

No longer sheltered by the crabapple's branches, the daphne will now get strong sun in the front yard, even though it faces north.

Check with me this time next year. I would hate to have to move it, but if it proves necessary, I’ll try transplanting it, broken branch and all.  After all, it’s surprised me before with its determination to survive. Perhaps it will do so again. Fingers crossed.

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12 Comments on “My Determined Daphne”

  1. John Says:

    Melissa, I have the identical plant and just two weeks ago was also inspired to bring in a branch — mine insists on growing out into the driveway & I will have to cut it sometime — but like yours the forcing hardly happened. The flowers did open but the foliage was turning yellow by then and there was no scent that I could detect. So we will have to settle for compellingly fragrant garden plant that has been rock solid hardy (for 30 years in my case) and is always ready to bloom at the slightest hint of spring.

    • Melissa Says:

      How interesting to hear you had a similar result with trying to force a “clipping” from your daphne! I’m hoping not to have to move mine, mainly because of the broken section which I think has weakened the whole shrub. But we’ll have to see.

  2. Laurrie Says:

    I had read that daphnes were difficult plants to keep alive, but yours wants to live, although horizontally and oddly! The real eye opener in this post, however, is the loss of that stunning twisted crabapple. How sad that it is gone. The pictures are beautiful and it must have been wonderful to sit under its branches.

    • Melissa Says:

      Laurrie, I had to take the crabapple out in late November. It had serious fireblight problems and two major lateral branches had cracked badly enough they had to be taken off. It was a terrible loss, especially since I had already been forced to take down my 90′ beech tree on the other side of the front yard. I’ve planted a green Japanese maple in the spot where the crabapple was, more about which later. Thanks for the kind words.

  3. UrbanArborist/LA Says:

    I have found that Daphne actually like more sun than I thought, based on observance at two sites. I designed a garden with a number of Daphne all facing East but open to the southern sun for part of the day. The Daphne are thriving. My husband has Daphne odora where he works in the same conditions and they are also doing very well. I have yet to repeat this experiment but Daphne are so wonderful that I may sooner than later. I hope you have a similar result. -MGildea

    • Melissa Says:

      Melissa, thanks for the encouraging words. Clearly this is a plant that has put up with a lot. I hope it can make the transition to a sunny site – when we lost the beech tree last summer the sun was quite punishing from the west onto the daphne, but it still had the shade from the east until the crabapple came down. As I said, fingers crossed!


  4. Melissa,
    How strong is the fragrance? Is it noticeable during very cold temps? Also, is march the earliest it usually blooms ( I now all bets off this year as the warm temps are pushing everything along too quickly.)

    • Melissa Says:

      Jeff, the fragrance is quite intense although you need to be within a couple of feet of the shrub to notice it. I’ve been able to smell it when it’s in the 30’s. Up until now I’ve not seen it in bloom before early March but who knows this year?

  5. Kripa Says:

    Hey melissa hope your daphe makes it. I have seen them growing in sunnier spot so let’s keep our fingers crossed.


  6. Aw i hope it does stay determined! It sounds like it has been quite resilient- it’ll hang in there 🙂 Gorgeous images also!

  7. jasonalonzo Says:

    Very beautiful images reminds me of sustainable landscape design and architecture


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