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Sweet scented daphne is a joy


The Himalayan daphne flowering in mid-winter

The Himalayan daphne flowering in mid-winter

The Himalayan daphne flowering in mid-winter

The Himalayan daphne has already started flowering in some gardens and what a wonderfully sweet scent it emits. Many kinds of daphnes are scented but this is one of the best. It flowers in winter and early spring, varying according to the weather and the location. Flowering is very reliable with a few flowers produced early, and these resist frost well. In colder weather, the development of the flowers halts and picks up again when the weather gets warmer.

This daphne is a real favourite and becoming more popular in gardens. Its botanical name is Daphne bholua and it was first introduced here from its native region in the Himalayan Mountains about 70 years ago. It is bigger than the other daphnes seen in gardens, upright in shape, reaching about two metres, often more. It has smooth, pale brown stems. At the tip of every twig, plump rounded buds open to reveal clusters of small tubular flowers.

The flowers are red-purple in bud, opening white with pale red-purple remaining on the back of the flower

The plant is fast-growing and begins to flower while still quite small with the flowering increasing as it matures. This daphne is quite varied in form in its natural habitat, tending to be evergreen or semi-evergreen at lower altitudes and producing deciduous forms at higher levels. This is a reaction to severe cold and the semi-evergreen kind often loses more, or all, of its leaves in a cold winter here, although the evergreen forms are not completely hardy.

The deciduous kind might be a better bet in the colder parts of the country.

There are two main varieties of this daphne sold in garden centres. 'Jacqueline Postill' is a semi-evergreen kind that holds most of its leaves - some people prefer to see the flowers with some greenery associated with them.

However, others prefer the deciduous form called 'Gurkha' which displays the flowers on bare stems. The flowers are sometimes followed by black berries, but these are not freely produced. The berries can be sown to raise new plants, although these may vary from the parent. Sometimes a self-sown seedling or two appears near the bush and these can be lifted carefully when small and planted where there is space. It does not root well from cuttings.

Some plants, produced by micro-propagation in a laboratory, produce suckers that can be detached with roots and grown on.

The bush is not long-lived as the wood is soft and some plants go suddenly into a decline, often as a result of being rocked by wind or the soil being too wet. Give it a position in good fertile soil, well drained with plenty of humus, and a sunny spot for more plentiful flowers.

Reader's query "I was at a wedding a few days ago and I was given a little rose to wear on a suit. I was wondering could I propagate this rose into a new plant?" David, Co Dublin, by email It is unlikely to take root at this time of year, but you never know. Try it in some moist compost in a small pot, covered with a white plastic bag, placed in a bright place but not in direct sunshine, indoors.

Sunday Independent