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Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill'

Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill'

As the sun emerges in the New Year its gradually increasing strength triggers many winter flowering shrubs into bloom. A favourite at RHS Garden Hyde Hall is Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill'.

Vital statistics

Common name
Daphne
Family
Thymelaeaceae
Height & spread
2.5m (8ft) x 4m (13 1/2ft)
Form
Evergreen shrub
Soil
Moderately fertile, humus-rich, well drained soil.
Aspect
Sun or partial shade
Hardiness
Hardy in some areas, need frost protection in winter

Daphne

Daphne as a genus consists of about 50 deciduous, semi-evergreen and evergreen species from Europe, North Africa and Asia. Their natural habitats range from lowland woodlands to mountains. Plants that grow at higher altitudes are often deciduous while those from lower altitudes are evergreen but less hardy.

Daphnes are invariably grown for their delightfully fragrant flowers, which most have in abundance, but some are grown for their foliage, fruit or upright, rounded or prostrate habit.

A wide range of species and cultivars are grown in gardens, many of which are at their best in the depths of winter making them of great horticultural value. Of the deciduous types D. bholua var. glacialis 'Gurkha' displays pink flushed white flowers. Another daphne that flowers without the obstruction of leaves is D. mezereum, or mezereon as it is sometimes called, which produces a flush of colour in late winter through into early spring before the leaves begin to grow. The purplish-pink blooms, or white in the case of D. mezereum f. alba, cover the spreading stems that can reach up to 1.2m (4ft).

Daphne odora is a rounded evergreen shrub and another wonderfully scented example that flowers in the winter and early spring. It has clusters of white flowers edged with carmine and darkly glossy evergreen leaves. The cultivar 'Aureomarginata' AGM has leaves with narrow, irregular yellow margins.

There are many other types of daphne including D. tangutica AGM, D. tangutica Retusa Group AGM, D. sericea, D. pontica AGM and D. petraea 'Grandiflora'. Their hardiness varies as well as the leaf retention, flowering period and shade tolerance.

Daphnes grow well in borders or in woodland settings and once planted do not like to be moved. They will also perform well in containers. To gain the maximum pleasure from growing daphnes, plant near paths and buildings where both the sight and scent of their flowers can be easily admired and appreciated.

All parts of the plant are poisonous and skin contact with the sap can cause dermatitis in some people.

Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill'

Daphne bholua and its cultivars are valued highly because they flower in midwinter. The species comes from the Himalayas where it is part of a group known as the paper daphnes, as both paper and rope were once made from the sinewy bark.

D. bholua 'Jacqueline Postill' is evergreen with intensely fragrant flowers up to 2cm across, that are pink to purple on the outside with a white or pale pink centre. It is borderline hardy.

D. bholua 'Darjeeling' can flower before Christmas with the palest pink flower. D. bholua 'Alba' has pure white flowers and D. bholua 'Peter Smithers' is one of the most glamorous daphnes, with masses of flowers, pink in bud and opening to white.

Cultivation

Daphne bholua prefers a cool, well-drained sandy loam and a sunny position, though it tolerates some shade. At least some forms, especially the sub-species D. bholua subsp. glacialis tolerate alkaline soils and all like plenty of moisture in the growing season. It grows well in London, tolerating the atmospheric pollution. Plants are resentful of root disturbance and should be planted into their permanent positions as soon as possible

Aphids, leaf spot, grey mould (Botrytis) and viruses may be a problem.

Propagation

Seed is best sown in a glasshouse as soon as it is ripe with the pot sealed in a polythene bag to hold in moisture. Remove this bag as soon as germination takes place. Germination should normally occur by spring, though it sometimes takes a further year. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle. Grow the plants on in a glasshouse for their first winter and then plant out in spring after the last expected frosts.

Cuttings of half-ripe wood with a heel can be taken in June or July and put in a frame.

Propagation may also be achieved by the division of suckers, or layering.

AGM

The RHS Woody Plant Committee awarded Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill' an Award of Garden Merit and described it as:

"More or less evergreen medium-sized shrub of erect habit with leathery oblanceolate leaves. Highly fragrant purplish-pink and white flowers in terminal clusters. Berries black."

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