Have you visited the Winter Walk around Seven Acres at Wisley? We’ve been enhancing it year on year, and among the additions this season are around 100 specimens of a winter-flowering shrub that is prompting plenty of “oooohs” and “aaaahhhs” from visitors, not quite sure of what it is.
So we’ll tell you – it’s Edgeworthia chrysantha
We’ve always had a few edgeworthias in the more sheltered spots of the garden at Wisley. They’re the type of well-mannered, self-contained shrub with pretty, unusual palmate leaves, that take care of themselves for most of the year. But then, come winter, they tantalise the gardener with bare stems dripping with ball-like clusters of flower buds, coated in pale silky hairs that make them stand out in the winter light. They can stay like that for months, and then, gradually, they begin to bloom.
Fragrant, yellow tube-like flowers open one by one, starting from the outer buds. Eventually the whole cluster opens and the shrub looks like it is covered in balls of gold. Now, this effect is glorious for the standalone specimens that you can find beside the winding path from Bowles’ Corner down to the Wild Garden. But you really have to come and see the mass plantings on Seven Acres… this is their first year and we’re loving it!
If yellow isn’t your colour there’s still an edgeworthia for you. Outside the Laboratory is an orangey-red flowered cultivar called ‘Red Dragon’.
As a further benefit, edgeworthias have a delightful fragrance. Many winter-flowering plants are sweetly scented to attract those few pollinating insects that are around at this time. It’s a happy coincidence for the gardener.
Did you notice the common name? Paperbush. A quick look at the peeling bark reveals all. In fact, the bark has been used in the manufacturing of high quality paper in the Far East.
We really love this shrub – we hope you do too. Give it a sheltered spot in moist, well-drained, humus-rich soil and it should do you proud, especially in February.
*The photo at the top of this blog shows Edgeworthia chrysantha - the second photo of the plant in bud is Edgeworthia chrysantha ‘Grandiflora’