Kew today - daphnes in flower

The Spring season has been brightened by another gloriously scented winter flowering shrub, Daphne bholua, which is still covered in flowers this week.

19 Mar 2010

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Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill'

Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill' (Image: RBG Kew)

Hailing from some of the highest mountains in the world, in the wild Daphne bholua can be found in the eastern Himalayas, from Nepal to Bhutan, at altitudes of 2,000 – 3,000 m, where it grows in thickets, on forest margins and higher up, in pastures and grassy glades. Those at lower altitudes are evergreen whereas those at higher are deciduous but more hardy. Daphne bholua is one of the paper daphnes, as both paper and rope can be made from the bark. The paper is lightweight, strong and long-lasting and is used for legal documents, wood cut prints and devotional books in Buddhist monasteries.

Icy Himalayan Daphne (Daphne bholua var. glacialis)
The icy Himalayan daphne (Daphne bholua var. glacialis) at Wakehurst Place Image: RBG Kew

One of the most showy cultivars, D. bholua 'Jacqueline Postill', named by its propagator Alan Postill of Hilliers, is evergreen with intensely fragrant pink to purple flowers up to 2 cm across. Kew's specimen can be found in the Duke's Garden behind the gazebo. Wakehurst Place, however, has many – in  the Winter Garden and in the Himalayan Glade. A lovely specimen of the Icy Himalayan Daphne (Daphne bholua var. glacialis) can be found in Wakehurst's Winter Garden. First collected by Major Tom Spring Smyth in 1962 in east Nepal, it was brought to England via a diplomatic bag (I suspect our Plant Health Officer here at Kew would not be too happy about that...) It is a deciduous shrub with pink to purple, very fragrant flowers, which are borne in stalkless clusters on bare branches in spring.

Daphnes resent being moved, and should only be pruned when absolutely necessary. And beware: all parts of the plant are poisonous, particularly the black berries that appear after the flowers.

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1 comment on 'Kew today - daphnes in flower'

juliamilsome says

25/03/2010 12:00:00 AM | Report abuse

I have this plant in my garden and the perfume is absolutely unbelieveable. This was given to me as a gift and I planted it half way down the garden. If I had another one I would plant it nearer the house as the perfume transports you to heaven; its that lovely.

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