February's Plant of the month

If there’s ever a plant to make you eager for February, the paperbush has got to be it

Edgeworthia chrysantha - paperbushIn the depths of winter this open, rounded shrub encourages thoughts of spring to come. You can see the flower buds of Edgeworthia chrysantha waiting for their time to perform even in December, and it gives us a sense of anticipation, urgency and even, dare we admit, impatience: 'Come on, get flowering!'

Arranged in pairs of downward-facing clusters like inverted cushions, the flowers are coated in pale, silky hairs. One by one the outer buds open to reveal yellow tube-like flowers and the flower heads open up and become more obvious. From afar, the shrub starts to look as if it is covered in balls of gold. It really is quite lovely.

And it has a delightful fragrance. Many winter-flowering plants are sweetly scented to attract those few pollinating insects that are around at this time. It’s a happy coincidence for the gardener.

So why does it have the common name of paperbush? A quick look at the peeling bark reveals all. In fact, the bark has been used in the manufacturing of high-quality paper in the Far East.

At Wisley you can find it in growing in the shelter of the Laboratory wall, and in the woodland areas of Battleston Hill. We’ve recently planted more along the edge of the Wild Garden path by Seven Acres. In pride of place, standing proud in the middle of Bowles’ Corner, is Edgeworthia chrysantha ‘Grandiflora’. 

Later in the year it has pretty palmate leaves, making it an elegant specimen for any garden, but it’s at this time of year when Edgeworthia chrysantha takes pride of place.

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