Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today

 
 

NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

Plant Profiles

Paper Bush

edgeworthia-chrysantha-snow-cream-b-detail-030713-640

 

Its silvery button-like bud clusters have tantalized and even taunted for months. December, January, and February, the question was, "When will those babies open up?"

 

edgeworthia-chrysantha-snow-cream-b-closer-030713-640

 

Finally. The cheerful yellow flowers of Edgeworthia chrysantha 'Snow Cream' are tiny in size but big in fragrance.

 

edgeworthia-chrysantha-snow-cream-b-closest-030713-640

 

New flowers should continue to develop into April.

 

 

Here's how paper bush looks when in bud.

 

Here's how to grow paper bush.

 

Latin name

Edgeworthia chrysantha 'Snow Cream'

Common name

Paper bush

Family

Thymelaeaceae, a sprawling family whose member genera include both tea and daphne.

What kind of plant is it?

Winter-deciduous shrub.

Hardiness

Zones 7b to 10. Colder with protection; see "How to handle it: Another option—or two!" for strategies.

Habit

Upright but broad as well, thanks to its habit of branching all by itself.  Usually wider than tall. Gently suckering as it matures.

Rate of growth

Medium.

Size in ten years

Size depends on climate. Where 'Snow Cream' is solidly hardy—such as in the Zone 7b gardens of the originating nursery, Plant Delights, near Raleigh, North Carolina—ultimate dimensions can approach eight feet tall and wide. A supplier in central New Jersey, Rare Find, whose location is listed as Zone 7a, gives maximum size as five to six feet tall and wide. My gardens in southern Rhode Island are listed as Zone 6b; if I were to establish 'Snow Cream' in a protected location here, I wouldn't expect the shrub to exceed three or four feet.

Texture

In leaf, mounding and densely-foliaged with large oval leaves, such that the shrub could easily be mistaken for a rhododendron. Out of leaf, sculptural and thick-stemmed, reminding viewers of its kinship to typical forms of Daphne, such as 'Carol Mackie'.

Grown for

its buds: A few dozen individual buds are tightly grouped into silvery button-like clusters that are mysterious and striking. Edgeworthia would be highly garden-worthy even if those buds never matured to flowers.

 

its flowers: The outer rings of buds peel back from the tight cluster; their fuzz changing from silver to white in the process. A tiny bright-yellow flower soon opens, emitting a fragrance of honey as well as spice. As is typical for plants whose flowers emerge in chilly weather, the fragrance can be penetrating when the air is still. As is also typical, the floral display is lengthy, lasting anywhere from weeks to months as successive rings of flowers in each cluster slowly mature, and slacker clusters eventually rouse into action.

 

its vigor: 'Snow Cream' grows faster, matures larger, has larger foliage than the species, and is a bit hardier.

its imperviousness to browsers:  As is often the case for Daphne and its relatives, the flowers and foliage of Edgeworthia are rarely sampled, let alone grazed.

Flowering season

Long: depending on the mildness of the weather, from February into April. In climates with Winter temperatures nearer and nearer to the lower limit of hardiness—roughly zero degrees Fahrenheit unless the shrub is protected and is growing in ideal conditions (see both "How to handle it" boxes, below)—flowering will begin later and later. It still completes while temperatures are cool in Spring, though. Thus, the season for flowering becomes shorter or, making the best of it, more concentrated, as the Winter becomes more severe. 

Color combinations

The green leaves, light brown bark, and fuzzy silver buds of 'Snow Cream' go with anything. As flowers emerge, the fuzz changes to white. Because flowers can emerge from clusters for weeks or even, under ideally mild circumstances, for months, the yellow of the flowers is always accompanied by the white of the fuzz. It's a bicolor show, and so is already interesting enough in itself. Resist the urge to bring in plants with colors, such as blue or burgundy, that would be yellow-or-white compatible if only the Edgeworthia display had been "unicolor." The only exception is the usual ideal background or groundcover of dark green foliage, broadleaved or coniferous. See "Partner plants," below.  

Partner plants

Consider pairing Edgeworthia with plants that enhance its less distinctive (but always attractive) leafiness in warm weather, while maximizing the striking appeal of its flowering but bare-stemmed style in cold. Backing the shrub with dense small-leaved evergreens is a plus year-round, especially if they can be clipped. Then their strict geometry will call attention all the more sharply to the free-range architecture of the thick branching of the Edgeworthia. Evergreen groundcovers are another way to enhance the shrub's cold-weather of show of buds and flowers, provided that their foliage isn't large enough to say "heavy" when seen beneath the large and dense Edgeworthia foliage that will return in Spring. Consider grassy-leaved groundcovers that are reliably evergreen where you garden. Are there forms of Carex or Liriope whose foliage doesn't become tattered by late Winter, when the show of Edgeworthia flowers will be at its peak?

 

The floral display of Edgeworthia is so long-lasting—in mild climates the show can last from February into April—that it could become taken for granted. Consider companion plants with shorter Winter and Spring peaks, always celebrating (only) white or yellow, so the overall display keeps evolving. The bright yellow flowers of Eranthis echo that of 'Snow Cream'. Any plants that can partner it can also partner Edgeworthia.

 

Avoid planting nearby most of the other shrubs that flower in Winter or Spring, such as Corylopsis, Jasminum, or Daphne. Their flowers are also small, and often fragrant, as well, and will look repetitive and smell confusing. The three big exceptions are Hamamelis (with clusters of flowers with "paper-streamer" petals) and, for those in Zone 7 and warmer, the Winter- and Spring blooming forms of Camellia japonica (with large rose-like flowers), and Garrya elliptica (with small flowers in unique vertical strands).

 

Don't forget to keep color in mind, as well as seasonality, eschewing plants whose cold-weather celebrations highlight any shades other than white, yellow, or green.

Where to use it in your garden

The fragrant flowers of Edgeworthia demand nose-to-blossom appreciation. Judging by the shrub's likely ultimate size in your climate—see "Size" above—site close enough so some of the mature stem tips will be right at hand to a visitor standing on an adjacent pathway or patch of lawn, and yet not extend so far, or so numerously, that the shrub will become an obstruction. Edgeworthia doesn't lend itself to much pruning, especially that which is only needed because the shrub was planted too close to the edge of its bed. Instead, plant to have perfect close-range viewing when the shrub is five to ten years old; in the meanwhile, provide any needed access into the bed by laying a few stepping stones. Remove them as the shrub increases its outward reach.

 

Siting to enhance hardiness must trump all else if you're experimenting with establishing Edgeworthia in climates colder than Zone 7. Ideally, the best location for hardiness would also be the best for easy enjoyment of the flowers. Is there a sheltered location that is also convenient (enough) to a walkway or a doorway to the house? When in doubt, go for the location that can provide the most hardiness enhancers listed, below, in "How to handle it: Another option—or two!"

 

When hardiness isn't a problem (sigh), Edgeworthia can be sited prominently regardless of its exposure. What could be better, year-round, than a mature shrub at the center of a courtyard? A whole group of them at the center of an even larger courtyard.

Culture

Sun to part shade in rich moisture-retentive soil with good drainage. More sun is best when growing in climates at the cold end of the hardiness range; more shade is best in milder climates, especially if they are also hot.

How to handle it: The Basics

Plant in Spring, ensuring enough water to enable the shrub to establish. Edgeworthia normally doesn't need formative or maintenance pruning (apart from cutting off any Winter-killed tips); let the shrub grow on its own. Established shrubs are self-reliant except during the most extended drought, or if planted in soil that isn't sufficiently moisture-retentive. 

How to handle it: Another option—or two?

The unusual flowers, long period of bloom at the very beginning of the new season, and the bloom's fragrance all make Edgeworthia irresistible, and therefore a tempting experiment for gardeners in climates colder than Zone 7b. Maximize your chances for successful establishment by implementing as many as possible of the following steps.

 

   1. Don't attempt to establish small-size shrubs. If necessary, grow in a container for a year, or for years, until the shrub is several feet tall.

 

   2. Plant in humus-rich soil that is on a slope, no matter how small; if there's no other option, create the slope by planting at the crest of a small mound. As usual, good drainage enhances Winter hardiness. It's fine for surface water to be present during and after heavy rains, as long as the water isn't hanging around. Water that's moving through is fine even if, for a while, there's a lot of it.

 

   3. Plant in full sun, so that new growth is most likely to be maximally hardened by the time severe weather arrives in Winter.

 

   4. Site with all possible shelter at the East and the North, to reduce the severity of wind that, typically, is colder than that from the South or West. Does your house have a South- or West-facing alcove? Is there a fence that extends from the North corner of a West-facing wall?

 

   5. Site with low evergreen shrubs across the front of the Edgeworthia, so that sweeping winds that approach frontally don't have full access to the base of the shrub.

 

   6. After the foliage has been shed for the Winter, mound around the base of the shrub with several inches of gravel or sand; because shrubs begin flowering even when small, you'll want to leave the tips of the stems exposed. Using gravel or sand as an overwintering mulch ensures that there is less moisture around the base of the plant than there would be if a mulch of bark or leaves were used. Remove this mulch in earliest Spring, while blooming is still in process and new leaves haven't yet emerged.

 

   7. Place evergreen boughs atop the gravel or sand mound; if possible, mound them up nearly to the tips of the bud-laden Edgeworthia branches. Poke them through one another, as well as through the Edgeworthia branches, to help anchor them. The boughs will buffer wind, and hence reduce wind-chill, without impeding air-flow that will help keep the surface of the shrub's branches (and the mound around its base) from becoming waterlogged. Remove the branches in late Winter or early Spring, before new foliage emerges.

 

If the "luck" that was created, mostly, by hard work and careful planning in following steps 1 - 7 above, enables your Edgeworthia to establish, you can experiment in successive years with lessening the amount of protective mulch and boughs.

 

If a subsequent Winter is—surprise!—severe, and substantial die-back occurs, don't give up. Edgeworthia can resprout from very low. Wait until new growth appears before pruning Winter-killed tips.

 

If your shrub has become old enough to sucker, those can take over if the mother shrub is killed to the ground. (Edgeworthia is propagated by division or by cuttings, not by grafting.) If Winter is regularly severe enough to kill the tips of branches, this means that the flower-buds are killed, too. An Edgeworthia that hardly ever flowers is, perhaps, not worth all the effort.

Any (other) quirks or special cases?

Although its Summer foliage is pleasing, the lack of flowers may tempt you to pair Edgeworthia with a scandent, clinging, or twining companion whose foliage or flowers will provide a contrast of color or texture. Resist! Those same plants will also be present in the Winter, when Edgeworthia is in bud or in flower, and their out-of-season appearance will likely add only a messy distraction to the show. Offhand, the only exception I can come up with would be midget-leaved euonymus, E. fortunei 'Kewensis', which you could train to an impressive veneer on the shrub's major branches.

Downsides

If only Edgeworthia were hardier.

 

There are no dwarf forms that I'm aware of, and Edgeworthia doesn't lend itself to pruning, either. On both counts, the shrub is limited to locations large enough for its maximal size. In more compact settings, consider Daphne odora, another Winter-flowering shrub of legendary fragrance. It is usually half the size of Edgeworthia.  

Variants

The flowers of Edgeworthia chrysantha 'Akabono' are brick-red or, in some pictures, orange. Also known as 'Red Dragon', and probably the same as 'Rubra'. 'Winter Gold' is reported to be, like 'Snow Cream', more vigorous in all aspects: Easier to grow, somewhat more hardy, quicker to flower, with larger flowers and foliage, and a larger overall size at maturity. If I'm successful at establishing 'Snow Cream' in the garden itself, I'll celebrate by adding 'Akabono'—which I'll keep in a container.

 

Besides E. chrysantha, there are about a half dozen other species of Edgeworthia; only E. papyrifera is encountered with any frequency in gardens. It is so similar to E. chrysantha that some sources list the two as synonymous; "separatist" sources describe E. papyrifera as being less hardy.

 

If I were gardening where Edgeworthia could be established easily, I'd have quite a collection of forms or, at least, a multiplicity of any that were reliably hardy. I'd devote a separate garden to them. If it were bounded by thick hedges or walls, the fragrance in the still air would be concentrated deliciously and, perhaps, overwhelmingly. Edgeworthia intoxication: What a way to go!

 

Availability

On line.

Propagation

By division in late Winter, i.e., before leaves have emerged, or from cuttings in early Spring, when foliage emergence is imminent.

Native habitat

Edgeworthia chrysantha is broadly native to Asia, from Japan to Nepal. The genus Edgeworthia was first brought to the attention of European-centric horticulture in 1841.   

 
 
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