Daphne mezereum

This is one of the easier daphnes to grow in a sunny or lightly shaded garden, being hardy except in the bitterest winters; it likes a good, well-drained soil, preferably with some lime. It is a small, erect deciduous shrub flowering in early spring, dense clusters of typical purplish-pink daphne flowers crowding on the previous year’s shoots. The leaves come later, and there are scarlet berries in mid-summer. Like other daphnes, it has a strong, sweet scent. It is a native of Europe and Asia Minor, and some say of Britain, but this is doubtful.

The nymph Daphne was something of a heroine in ancient Greece, being one of Apollo’s rare amatory failures. He pursued her and was rejected, the nymph calling on the gods for rescue. They turned her into a daphne bush, though of which species I have not been able to discover.

The most beautiful planting of Daphne mezereum I have seen is in a Cotswold garden, where it is grown as a low hedge, but I have also admired it as a specimen bush by a cottage front door, under-planted with snowdrops – it has been considered a cottage plant for hundreds of years.

There is an equally charming white form, ‘Alba’, with yellow berries.

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