We’ve all been there (and perhaps you’re there now)—the winter doldrums, those periods of stagnation and dullness that sweep over us during the colder months. And for the gardener, who is longing for those spring days when the morning suns breaks into the garden and kisses each new leaf and bud, winter can be an especially depressing season. What are we to do?! Well, winter isn’t going away, but we can adjust our perspective on the coldest of seasons by thinking about what’s available for us in the winter garden.
One plant that can help reinvigorate our winter gardens is Winter Daphne, or Daphne odora. Known for its sweet fragrance, as its name reveals, Winter Daphne is an evergreen shrub that bears clusters of rosy-purple star-shaped flowers with a whitish center in late winter. An especially striking variety of Winter Daphne is Daphne odora ‘Aureo-marginata,’ or Variegated Winter Daphne, for zones 7–9. Its name says it all: aureo means “golden” and marginata means “border” or “edge.” In other words, the gold-colored variegation of this variety appears along the edges of its leaves, giving the plant its memorable appearance. Because of its distinct look and incredible aroma, Winter Daphne often works well as a specimen plant near a walkway, porch, or deck, where you and your guests can enjoy it. Winter Daphne grows slowly at a rate of 2-3 in. per year to mature at 3-4 ft. tall and wide.
When planting Winter Daphne, be sure to consider several important details. Daphne prefers a location that is part shade to part sun (i.e., that receives a bit of shade from the hottest part of the afternoon summer sun) and that has well-draining soil. Never plant Winter Daphne where the soil stays soggy after rain or watering. Also, never break up or disturb the rootball of a daphne when planting, and fertilize it only with mushroom compost, either as a topdressing or mixed in the planting hole. Finally, give Winter Daphne time to acclimate to its new location; it may take a few years for it to completely adjust to its surroundings and reach its full potential.
So, if you’re deep in the weeds of winter dormancy, brush off those frosty feelings and head over to Lichtenfelt Nursery where you can find winter’s touch of gold—Daphne odora ‘Aureo-marginata.’
~ Michael Pope, Lichtenfelt’s Team Member