An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

March 4, 2008

Rules Are Ment To Be Broken

I was never been a big stickler for rules in general, but especially for horticultural rules. However, as free space in my garden began to become scarce, I found myself having to follow a few guidelines (or rules if you will). Our whole lot is only 100' by 35', and most of that is taken up by house and detached garage. Plants in such a small garden need to earn their keep, so I decided that they should pass some sort of entrance exam if they were to find a place in my garden. Here are some of the questions I ask before buying a new plant.
  • Does it bloom for a long time, or for more than one season?
  • Does it bloom at a time of the year when nothing else is happening?
  • Does if offer some sort of interest beyond showy flowers, such as attractive or variegated foliage, stunning bark, colorful fruit, delicious fragrance or does it have an architectural habit?
  • Will it fill a niche where nothing else will grow?
  • Can I grow it in a container, without having to protect it in the winter?
  • Was it free?

If the answer is "yes" to one or more of the above questions, then I will probably open the gate for it. Now here are the exceptions to the above rules.

  • Annuals are exempt, since they can be pulled up, composted and not replaced the next year if I don't like them.
  • Sentimental favorites can be exempt as well. These might include pass-along plants, plants with special associations, or plants that evoke memories of favorite people or of childhood.

Finally, I will exempt a plant if it is so stunning in flower (no matter the duration) that it causes me to overlook any shortcomings it may have. Such a plant is Lilac Daphne (Daphne genkwa).

In late winter it is covered with pale purple flowers form top to bottom before the leaves emerge, and blooms for a short month. The remainder of the year it is nondescript, fading into the background. This is the only Daphne I have in my garden, although I would grow Winter Daphne (Daphne odora), if I didn't think it would die a quick death at the hands of poor soil and dog urine. Lilac Daphne prefers the same conditions as other Daphnes, but it is not nearly as fussy. They prefer partial shade in moist soil with excellent drainage, and is hardy in zones 5-8. It only gets about 3-4' tall and wide. Unlike other Daphnes, it is not evergreen, and is sadly not fragrant, but I put my nose in it every year expecting this fact to change. I have other plants that I have broken the rules for, and maybe as their season of interest approaches I will post something about them.


  1. Plants in my yard have to answer my tough questions too and I got to have flower power. I like lots of punch. Daphne won't grow in yard either. It needs dappled light around here. I fried mine. It died a slow death cause it was in good soil but poor thing couldn't stand the heat.

  2. The pale violet hue of the flowers is just gorgeous.