One of the joys and challenges of gardening is finding plants that provide year-round interest, especially during our bleak winters. Edgeworthia chrysantha, common name of Paper Bush, is a deciduous shrub which will grow in zones 7b to 10 (we are 7b in Alexandria). One of the most prized plants in the Alexandria garden, it provides winter interests in two different ways:
- Edgeworthia has very showy reddish-brown bark. A native of China, Paper Bush got its common name because its bark was used to make high grade paper and medicine.
- Its most important attribute, Edgeworthia is prized for its fragrant flowers. It blooms in winter and is a cousin of another fragrant winter bloomer, Daphne Odora. But Edgeworthia is way less difficult to grow than a Daphne.
The fragrance is said to be sweet like a gardenia, but spicier. Like its cousin Daphne, Edgeworthia’s aroma perfumes the air over great distances. Edgeworthia flowers occur in round clusters at branch tips before leaves appear throughout the winter; its fragrance to be enjoyed from late January to March in our area.
The 6 to 8 inch long leaves are dark blue-green on top with silvery green undersides. New leaves are fuzzy on top and, in the fall, they turn yellow. It has a somewhat tropical appearance and should be planted in rich moist but well-drained soil in shade or semi-sun to protect its broad leaves. Edgeworthia has a rounded growth habit (ultimately 6 feet tall by 6 feet wide) that requires little pruning to retain its shape.
Edgeworthia is not difficult to grow and it is exciting, waiting for their moment of glory when the flowers arrive. They definitely possess that 'weird' appeal that collectors love. In our area, Behnke's and Merrifield Garden Centers sometimes carry this plant, or you can Google it and order online (which is what I did). They are blooming right now in local plant nurseries!
Nancy Burns is a certified Master Gardener, Belle Haven Garden Club President for the past seven years, co-author of two award-winning gardening books, member of the Landscape Designers' Group and the Landscape Design Council as well as being completely fascinated with plants, gardening and their surrounding landscape design.