While we try to have as much diversity in the gardens there are certain plants that seem to have all the qualities that almost require them to reside in every garden. Edgeworthia fits the bill in almost every regard. A member of the Thymelaeaceae (daphne family), this rounded deciduous shrub has all the fragrance intensity of typical garden daphne (Daphne odora) without the tendency to up and die the minute you appreciate it. Lots of seasoned gardener have killed a daphne at least a few times. Edgeworthia, thankfully, has proven to be a much more durable plant.
Native to northern central China, Edgeworthia was really only a collectors plant in the mid 1990’s but has exploded in popularity. The common name of paperbush is derived from its’ use in China to make a high quality paper. Typically hardy down to single digits, it has been moderately hardy all the way up north in Delaware. Well-drained, moist soil is a must though for it to thrive. It typically performs best in partial sun to filtered shade but with supplemental moisture it can adapt to full sun.
Flower clusters are formed in early winter and are covered in silvery hairs which give the appearance of silver bells hanging from every branch. It seems as if the plant is in flower for much of the winter when in actuality flowering typically occurs in Feb-March. Dozens of small funnel shaped flowers open bright gold in each cluster, giving off a wonderful fragrance which carries quite far.
After flowering you can expect roughly 6-12” of growth a year. The branches typically form in 3’s, called sympodial growth, which leads to a naturally rounded habit. You can find Edgeworthia planted in many of the gardens as well as located outside many entrances to buildings. Our goal is to bring a bit of flower and fragrance to the majority of the campus early in spring through use of the plant.