Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’
Daphne is the star of the winter garden show in Central Park Gardens. Over the course of December and January the anticipation builds as purple buds begin to form at the tip of every stem. In late January the flowers open to reveal white petals and release one of the most rich and delicious perfumes the garden has to offer. If temperatures stay cool, the flowers will last well through February, but as warm days come in March, they quickly fade and give way to the chorus of other spring flowers.
Daphne odora hails from China and Japan, and the cultivar ‘Aureomarginata’ is unique for the creamy yellow stripe that outlines the edge of each leaf. It’s a treasured plant for partial shade and is best planted near a path where the fragrance can be appreciated. The waxy evergreen leaves almost look too perfect to be real, and the plant has a naturally rounded shape that rarely needs pruning or trimming to look tidy. It grows to about three feet tall and four feet wide.
Daphne’s only downfall is its sensitive root system that needs good drainage. Like a prima donna, it will quit without warning as it succumbs rapidly to root disease. The best ways to ensure daphne’s survival are to not disturb the roots when you initially plant it, put it in a location with afternoon shade in the summer, plant it a little high so it’s not sitting in a puddle in the winter, and water it no more than once a week in the summer. Overwatering is the easiest way to kill daphne growing in clay soils.
Many an envious gardener has eyed the large, healthy daphne in Central Park Gardens on the north side of the Sensory Garden. What’s our secret to success with this plant? Shade from the nearby apple tree, a nice layer of mulch to protect the roots, and deep irrigation once every two weeks. Oh yeah, and the constant stream of children jumping nearby as they climb in and out of the apple tree!