The 30-year jour­ney

A UK breeder has made scents of spring for sub­trop­i­cal gar­den­ers

Life & Style Weekend - - GARDEN - With Ma­ree Cur­ran

FRA­GRANT plants have a par­tic­u­lar al­lure in a gar­den, adding an­other level of sen­sory ex­pe­ri­ence on top of the vis­ual one. In warm cli­mates, we rely on some old favourites like mur­rayas, gar­de­nias, frangi­pa­nis and jas­mine to pro­vide scent.

In the past few years, sev­eral forms of daphne have been bred to with­stand the heat of the sub­trop­ics, and this is great news for those of us who love per­fume.

Daphne Eter­nal Fra­grance and Spring Pink Eter­nal Fra­grance are the re­sult of more than 30 years of work in the UK by renowned plant breeder Robin White. They have that won­der­ful scent, but are more heat and dry tol­er­ant, mak­ing them much eas­ier for us to grow than their cool cli­mate rel­a­tives. Eter­nal Fra­grance has clus­ters of strongly scented white flow­ers in spring, and will spot flower through­out the year. Spring Pink pro­duces dark pink flow­ers that fade to white as they age. It also con­tin­ues to spot flower through­out the warmer months, but the colour is less in­tense.

Th­ese daphnes form a low, spread­ing shrub, about 60cm tall and 90cm wide. The oval-shaped dark green leaves are about 2-3cm long.

The New Zealand-bred Daphne Per­fume Princess is the ear­li­est and long­est flow­er­ing of all daphnes, and is prized for its pro­fu­sion of large, in­tensely fra­grant blush pink (softly fad­ing to white) flow­ers. The fo­liage is much larger than the Eter­nal Fra­grance se­ries, and a brighter shade of green.

Th­ese daphnes will grow best in a frost-free po­si­tion in sun or semi-shade, ideally with pro­tec­tion from the hot af­ter­noon sun in sum­mer. They would also do well planted in the dap­pled light be­neath open canopied or de­cid­u­ous trees. While they will grow hap­pily in most soil types, they do need good drainage. If you have very heavy clay soil you might want to cre­ate a mound and plant into that. Def­i­nitely add com­post to the soil at plant­ing time. Keep the root zone well mulched to pro­tect it from heat in sum­mer and cold in win­ter. Es­tab­lished plants have some drought tol­er­ance, but ex­tended pe­ri­ods in dry soils may have an ad­verse ef­fect on flow­er­ing. Daphnes can be slow to get es­tab­lished and are best left undis­turbed once planted.

Once they are es­tab­lished, they will re­quire only oc­ca­sional at­ten­tion – keep them mulched and wa­ter as re­quired. Prune lightly in sum­mer af­ter flow­er­ing to main­tain a good shape, and feed with a well-bal­anced fer­tiliser. Don’t be tempted to prune too hard as you may not get re­growth if you cut into hard wood.

The clas­sic green fo­liage makes th­ese daphnes ideal for a small, fra­grant hedge. They are also great in pots. Got a gar­den­ing ques­tion? Email ma­[email protected]­nat­by­ron.com.au

PHO­TOS: CON­TRIB­UTED

Daphne Eter­nal Fra­grance.

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