Daphnes are exquisite shrubs with clusters of beautifully-scented white or pink flowers, which, depending on the variety, flower in late winter, early spring through to summer.
They have a bit of a reputation for being tricky, perhaps because they don’t like root disturbance, so avoid moving or pruning them. They should flourish if given the right conditions – a sheltered spot in partial shade with crumbly moisture-retentive, fertile soil and good drainage. Adding garden compost will make the soil airier and mulching will help protect the roots – horticultural fleece will also help protect foliage in cold snaps. Here are some favourite varieties:
Daphne x transatlantica ‘Eternal Fragrance' is an excellent daphne with pale pink, highly scented flowers that bloom as others stop from mid spring, and carry on throughout the summer and early autumn. It forms a compact mound shape (around 90cm) of small, neat semi-evergreen leaves. It can thrive in full sun or part shade.
Daphne 'Perfume Princess' has large highly-scented pale pink flowers from January to March – there is also a white version. The striking glossy pointy, mainly evergreen leaves of this small bushy shrub (1.2m) creates good winter structure.
Daphne odora has lustrous, deep green leaves that form a rounded, evergreen shrub (1.5m) and small clusters of highly scented flowers from January to March opening from purple-pink buds to reveal their pale pink petals.
Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill' is a tall, upright variety (up to 4m) with semi-evergreen leaves. The plant is covered with baby pink scented flowers in January and February and looks great under-planted by Cyclamen coum. Place it somewhere sunny and sheltered where you can appreciate the scent as you pass.