great shrub: fragrant daphne mezereum
WHAT’S THAT PERFUME? It’s always hard to believe you smell anything other than someone burning winter’s deposit of brush this time of year, but sweetness is in fact in the air. The first good whiff: Daphne mezereum, an old-fashioned shrub I’ve grown for decades but hardly ever find for sale, except perhaps as a vintage botanical print (alas, no scratch-and-sniff included).
The so-called February Daphne is more the March Daphne here, but who can blame it for waiting until the glacier recedes? At chest-height, my one remaining old plant is a non-descript, upright creature with this single two-week moment to recommend it, though quite a moment it is.
The flowers (from purple to white) are followed by poisonous red fruits, and this year I may try to germinate the seeds inside them, unless I can score some plants from Whitman Farms, perhaps, the only source I have tracked down (and where I have not ordered before, so no personal history to recommend it from). I only want the purple ones; fingers crossed.
I never expected the Daphne to live so long, I guess, judging from where I sandwiched it between a shed and a gold-leaf Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Crippsii.’ My previous plants gave up the ghost one after another, as Daphnes do, but this one just soldiers on, the sentry to another spring of heady scents.
(1885 print from the University of Hamburg library collection.)