Some of my favorite plants are those that “do something” when little else is.
Do we really need more June-flowering perennials? No!
Well, yes. Never mind.
Edgeworthia chrysantha – “Paperbush” is the common name – is a deciduous suckering shrub , native to China. It usually maxes out around 4′ to 5′ tall and as wide. The large, matte bluish-green leaves resemble those of Magnolia virginia in shape and are also a bit silvery on the underside. But that’s not what we’re here for…
An oooh-aaahhh-worthy specimen at the Hahn Horticulture Garden, Blacksburg, VA.
Furry, silvery flower clusters dangle like earrings from the cinnamon stems throughout the winter, getting larger by the month.
Then by late February or March, they open up, all golden and waxy, emitting a light, sweet fragrance on sun-warmed days.
Blooms at Pine Knot a few Springs ago…
Edgeworthia is ideal for the deciduous woodland environment. Hellebore specialists Dick and Judith Tyler of Pine Knot Farms (Clarksville, Virginia), situate theirs among drifts of spring bulbs and, of course, Hellebores. It’s a soul-stirring sight in March.
I believe the hardiness of Edgeworthia may be underestimated, especially if you go to a little effort to select the right microclimate. Dr. Dirr lists it as Zone 7 to 8(9). Having enjoyed them at the JC Raulston Arboretum during my doctoral work at NC State (Raleigh, North Carolina; Zone 7b), I found Edgeworthia was little-know here in the Blue Ridge (solid Zone 6, alledgedly 6a). We ordered some in for our Garden and Hort Club’s 2007 plant sale held in late April – despite my pleading and mark-downs, they didn’t generate much interest from shoppers as they were out of flower. We planted the left-overs in a fairly protected position on the North side of our garden pavilion, and they’re thriving. Snow was heaped up around them throughout January and February and we’ve gotten well into the single digits complete with howling winds a few times. Despite this rotten winter, they look better than ever, ready to burst into bloom any day now. Readers, please weigh in: Had any success with it in Zone 6? And why isn’t this fabulous thing more prevalent in the trade?