Saturday, 14 January 2012

Daphne from the top of the world in top form



Walking through a frost-covered Wakehurst Place early this morning with the head of the estate, Andy Jackson, we turned into the Himalaya Glade to find a forest of Himalayan daphne covered in frost-coloured flowers. Of course Andy had planned it that way.

In fact I'd chanced upon them a little earlier when out myself but I was more than happy to make their acquaintance again.


Daphne bholua is from the 'foothills' of the Himalaya - well, in the sense that it grows around 2,000 to 3,000 metres and Everest towers at 8,800 metres. The species name bholua borrows from the local name used by the Newar people of central Nepal.

Another of its common names is the Nepal Paper Plant. The inner layer of bark is used to make light-weight paper, apparently perfect for legal documents being light, strong and long-lasting. It's also favoured for higher purposes such as prints and books in Buddhist monasteries, and perhaps more practically to make rope and string.


As the sign on this plant at Wakehurst also says, it flowers between December and March, depending on the weather, so this is not one of the early-springers or late-summers. Still, the warm weather (except for this morning...) is undoubtedly behind it flowering profusely right now.

The perfume is described as 'clove carnation'. I can't confirm that assignation but it definitely had a pleasant aroma this morning. Quite faint, presumably due to the cold moist air, but a lovely addition to the frosty morning.

There are a number of cultivars, some deciduous. The mini-forest in the Himalaya Grove are lower alititude plants, all in leaf as you can see, but Andy showed me some leafless plants on the outskirts of the Memorial Garden near the mansion. It seems these deciduous ones are indeed flowering early, perhaps by a month or two.



It's only 50 years since the plant arrived in British gardens and Wakehurst Place would have been one of the first places you could have seen it. It's common enough in Nepal but surprisingly, given its cheery and pleasant smelling flowers in mid-winter, still a bit of novelty in our home gardens.

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