Favorite flowers

Without fail, gardeners hedge when declaring their favorite flowers, changing by the month or by the day, and I am hardly different. But, of all flowers, I most favor the yellow tipped, tube-like blooms of paperbush (Edgeworthia chrysantha, below). I anxiously watch the large buds from early winter until the first glimpse of yellow shows, sometimes in late January, but most years by early February, though later this year.

While hellebores and witch hazels are my indicators that winter is nearly over, flowers of paperbush announce spring’s arrival, and finally this week I’m pleased that it’s here. Yes, it could snow again, even into April, but the garden says it’s spring and a few days ago I could smell it. For years, I’ve heard and read that the blooms of paperbush are fragrant, and while my sense of smell is severely lacking, on a warm, still afternoon I was astounded to catch the fragrance from twenty feet away.

I must regularly monitor winter weather forecasts to be prepared to protect handfuls of marginally cold hardy plants that are questionable if temperatures drop below ten degrees (Fahrenheit), but I am most concerned by a forecast with drops below five degrees when flowers of paperbushes might be damaged. Three shrubs spread to twenty feet (others are slightly smaller), far too large to cover for protection, and while recent years have not fallen so low there have been several years in the past when flowers were damaged.

Looking across the koi pond at one of three paperbushes that now spreads twenty feet or wider.

Years ago, the first four paperbushes planted had grown to eight feet across, but several nights that dropped below zero killed branch tips. When leaves arrived in April, dead wood was removed leaving each only a few feet wide. I was heartbroken, but they grew, and the next year they grew faster. By the third year they were back in full, but not finished yet. The paperbushes have continued to spread, overwhelming a few neighbors along the way. There can never be too much of a favored plant, but this spring several paperbushes will be pruned so they are better neighbors.

I was disappointed a year ago by the loss of a small red tipped ‘Akebono’ paperbush (above). First, I was concerned that I had shoehorned it into too small a space. In fact, it was my wife who expressed concern, and my concern was that she would be proven correct. Now it doesn’t matter, and who knows why it didn’t make it, but I have consistent troubles with starting tiny plants. Yes, I neglect them, and it’s a shame that no one seems to grow larger pots of ‘Akebono’. It is unlikely it would supplant the yellow tipped paperbush as a favorite, but it could be a close second.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Valerie says:

    I just clicked on your November 2008 article and saw early photos of your pond, including when it was under construction! I must go back and look at all of your early articles, to see how your gardens have progressed, since I’m a newcomer to your blog. I’m learning a lot by reading about your plants!

    1. Dave says:

      The garden changes so much over time. I sometimes forget about a plant until I see it in an old post.

  2. tonytomeo says:

    Again, the allure escapes me. One of my esteemed colleagues received one of these as a gift and was ecstatic with it. (They are very rare here.) It lived potted for a few years (!) before going out to the arboretum, and was quite happy to bloom. It is even happier in the arboretum. However, there is prettier and more colorful bloom in the same arboretum. I can think of several blooms that are nearly as fragrant. Of course, my colleague does not understand why I miss so much of what I worked with in Southern California, including the incredibly fragrant night blooming jasmine, . . . which really is not much to look at. If we ever get an Edgeworthia chrysanta for a garden here, I will be obligated to take very good care of it, for those who appreciate it.

    1. Dave says:

      The wait for spring’s arrival gives late winter bloomers additional appeal.

      1. tonytomeo says:

        That is how it is typically explained to me, and applies to snowdrop and crocus as well. There is not much of a winter here, and there is always something to bloom if we want it. That is likely why the allure of the earliest spring flowers escapes me. I do like many of the flowers that happen to bloom in early spring though, but would like them just as much regardless of when they bloom.

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