The small trusses of tiny, pale pink flowers of daphne, Daphne odora, really do not need to be too flashy with such powerful fragrance. Actually, the flowers might be considered to be less interesting than the glossy evergreen foliage. The most popular cultivar, ‘Marginata’, has a narrow ivory or pale yellow edge to each leaf. Each leaf is only about two or three inches long. Each domed flower truss is about as big as half of a ping pong ball. Daphne is sometimes grown to compliment and provide fragrance for boldly colorful but fragrantly deficient camellias.
Daphne is unfortunately notorious for being somewhat finicky. It likes rich soil and reasonably regular watering, but quickly rots if soil stays too damp or drains inadequately. The roots are quite sensitive to excavation. Partial shade is no problem. Yet, even the biggest and happiest specimens do not get much more than three feet high and five feet wide, and rarely live more than ten years. Daphne is toxic, and the sap can cause dermatitis.
It is not the ginger that is so popular for culinary purposes, but it is the most popular for home gardens in the West. Kahili ginger, Hedychium gardnerianum, is so vigorous and easy to grow that it has potential to be invasive in ideal situations. Fortunately, it does not produce many of its sticky seeds locally. It therefore migrates primarily by dispersing rhizomes, which are not noxiously fast.
The delightfully fragrant bloom begins late in summer, and will finish soon. As many as forty small pale yellow and red flowers radiate from each cylindrical floral truss. Blooms stand neatly vertical, even if the stems supporting them lean. As cut flowers, they last only for a few days. Deadheading after bloom eliminates unwanted seed (if that is a concern), and unclutters the tidy foliage below.
However, with or without deadheading, the lush foliage is only temporary after bloom. It deteriorates as the weather cools through autumn. Cutting the herbaceous canes to the ground before they get too unsightly will expose some of the thick rhizomes. New canes will grow a few feet tall next spring and summer. On the canes, each leaf extends in the opposite direction of the leaf below it.
Human intervention has sustained the seven species of angel’s trumpet, Brugmansia, since their prehistoric extinction from the wild. They were likely endemic to tropical regions from Venezuela to Chile, and southeastern Brazil. Their extinction was likely a consequence of the natural extinction of animals that dispersed their seed. Most garden varieties are hybrids of the various species.
Angel’s trumpet is either a big shrub or small tree, with rather herbaceous stems. The more popular cultivars can get more than eight feet tall. Cultivars that might get twice as tall are rare. The soft leaves get about six inches long and half as wide. Leaves might get almost twice as long on vigorous growth. Some cultivars have slightly tomentous (fuzzy) foliage. A few have variegated foliage.
Although generally sporadic, and pastel hues of pink, orange, yellow or white, bloom is impressive. The pendulous trumpet shaped flowers are commonly longer than six inches, and half as wide. Double flowers are frilly. Several cultivars are delightfully fragrant, particularly in the evening. All plant parts are very toxic. Plants damaged by frost in winter are likely to regenerate from their roots.