A Shrub for All Seasons: Edgeworthia

Edgeworthia chrysantha 'Snow Cream' Cresson gardenI love edgeworthia in all its manifestations, but late winter when the buds start to swell has to be my favorite.

Edgeworthia chrysantha also known as paper bush is a collector’s plant.  That means it is rarely seen in public and private gardens and is hard to find at nurseries.  However, I have been able to offer it to my customers in fall 2011 and fall 2012 because my wholesale shrub supplier carries beautiful specimens of it.  I have grown it in my own garden for three years so I decided it was time for a full blown profile of what has become one of my favorite shrubs.

[Note:Carolyn's Shade Gardens is retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA.  The only plants that we mail order are snowdrops and miniature hostas.]

Edgeworthia chrysantha My photos of the whole plant do not do justice to how gorgeous it is, but as I reviewed the on-line literature, I realized that everyone has this problem.  This edgeworthia is pictured in mid-April on the terrace of the main house at Chanticleer gardens in Wayne, Pennsylvania.

Edgeworthia is native to China and was named for Michael Edgeworth (1812 to 1881), a plant collector for the East India Company.  It arrived fairly recently in the US.  My 1990 edition of Michael Dirr’s Manual of Woody Landscape Plants contains no mention of it, and it was not covered in my 1994 Longwood course, Deciduous Flowering Shrubs II.  Although articles state that its common name is paper bush, I have never heard anyone who actually grows it call it anything but edgeworthia.  In China, its bark is used to produce very high quality paper and for various medicinal purposes.  Here it is an unusual and elegant four season ornamental notable for its leaves, buds, flowers, and habit.

Edgeworthia chrysanthaEdgeworthia’s leaves are large and tropical, and its bark is an unusual reddish-brown.  This photo was taken in September and the highly ornamental buds have formed but have not yet expanded.

Edgeworthia is in the same family as daphne and has even occasionally been called yellow daphne.  It is deciduous and  has large and distinctive leaves.  They are 5 to 6″ long and about 2″ wide, blue-green on the top and silvery green on the bottom.  Although they can turn yellow in fall, you wouldn’t grow edgeworthia for fall color.  The leaves cluster at the tips of the branches giving the shrub a decidedly lush and tropical appearance that really stands out in the garden.  When the leaves drop, they reveal the slender and pliable reddish-brown bark seen above.

Edgeworthia chrysanthaEdgeworthia buds in November as they start to expand.

.

Edgeworthia chrysantha 'Snow Cream' Cresson gardenEdgeworthia buds as they appear through the heart of the winter.

.

Edgeworthis chrysanthaPlease use your imagination to envision how gorgeous this shrub must be covered with hundreds of the silky silver buds shown in the preceding photo.  This edgeworthia is pictured at the very end of January and is in the Isabelle Cosby Courtyard at the Scott Arboretum at Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania.

My favorite season for edgeworthia is winter when the leaves drop to reveal the buds which form in late summer or early fall depending on where you live.  Each 1″ plus bud resembles an intricately designed tassel on the corner of an elegant Victorian pillow.  The silky hairs glow in the light, and the plant looks like it is covered with hundreds of silver flowers–simply breathtaking.  The falling leaves also reveal edgeworthia’s striking architectural habit.  It is a multi-stemmed shrub that forms an almost perfectly rounded umbrella shape of cinnamon colored branches.

Edgeworthia chrysanthaEdgeworthia’s buds start to open at the beginning of March in our area and as early as January in the south.

.

Edgeworthia chrysanthaEdgeworthia’s flowers starting to open.

.

Edgeworthia chrysanthaFully open flowers in my garden in mid-March 2012.  I wish blog posts could include a fragrance button!

Blooming begins in our area in early March and can continue through April.  Each bud expands to reveal 25 to 35 tubular flowers with a silky silver exterior and a bright yellow interior.  That would be ornamental enough but the fragrance is amazing.  I can’t describe it—you will just have to find a specimen and experience it for your self.

Edgeworthia chrysanthaEdgeworthia blooming at the Scott Arboretum (photo taken by Rhoda Maurer and used with the permission of the Scott Arboretum).

I am going to give cultural information for edgeworthia with the caveat that I don’t think the plant has been grown long enough for it to be definitive.  Most sources say that edgeworthia grows in light to partial shade and requires moist, fertile, well-drained organic soil with supplemental water in summer.  I grow mine in an east-facing location with very high shade, but edgeworthisas at the Scott Arboretum and Chanticleer are in the sun while Charles Cresson has a relatively old plant in full shade.  My edgeworthisas have organic soil but are in a dry location.  This causes the leaves to go limp when it’s hot but doesn’t seem to harm the plants, time will tell.

Zone information is also variable, and the only thing I can guarantee is that specimens have been growing successfully in the Delaware Valley area of Pennsylvania for some time.  If you garden north of here, I suggest you try the plant anyway because we really don’t know how much cold it can take.  Planting in a protected location is often recommended, and all the plants I have seen are in protected spots, but I don’t know if this is necessary.  Mine are more exposed than other local plants so we will see. 

Finally, height and width estimates range all over the place with a consensus probably being 6′ by 6′.  However, the Chanticleer specimen in the sun is much lower and tighter while Charles Cresson’s shady specimen is taller and looser.  One thing is clear though: you won’t regret adding edgeworthia to your garden.

If you are growing edgeworthia, please leave a comment describing your experience with it, especially if you are from an area north of the Delaware Valley.

Carolyn

 

Nursery Happenings:  Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is done for the fall.  Thanks for a great year.  See you in spring 2013.

If you are within visiting distance and would like to receive catalogues and information about customer events, please send your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net.  Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

Facebook:  Carolyn’s Shade Gardens has a Facebook page where I post single photos, garden tips, and other information that doesn’t fit into a blog post.  You can look at my Facebook page here or click the Like button on my right sidebar here.

Notes: Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information.  If you want to return to my blog’s homepage to access the sidebar information (catalogues, previous articles, etc.) or to subscribe to my blog, just click here.

 

About these ads

82 Responses to “A Shrub for All Seasons: Edgeworthia”

  1. nancy hoffmann Says:

    Will we be able to buy edgeworthia soon?

  2. As always, Carolyn, you provide such fascinating information on plants! Whatever plant you’re writing about– I want to have it!

  3. LESLIE SHIELDS Says:

    I am considerably north of you in central CT (supposedly now zone 6). I will try this when I can get one in a very protected spot. They are so beautiful.

  4. Oh my word!!! What an amazing looking plant. I have never seen anything like it! It’s like little glowing bulbs. How gorgeous is that!! Thank you for sharing.

  5. Sandra Meyer Says:

    I, too, am ready to get one next growing season. Beautiful. Enjoyed the snowflakes on the page!

  6. What an interesting plant! I have seen a couple of close up shots before, but don’t recall seeing bush shots. However, I love seeing the entire bush more than just the small buds. What a beauty this must be to see in person.

  7. Susan Breen Says:

    Carolyn – So enjoy your blog – and this is a plant that I would love in my Brooklyn garden. Please let me know when you have them for sale. Hope you are having a good winter!
    All the best –
    Susan

  8. Carolyn what a magical shrub..those silky tassel flowers have always made me want to touch them…I have never seen it in flower but it is exotic looking…this is indeed a very special shrub to grow.

  9. You’ve provided such wonderful pictures and descriptions for edgeworthia. Is there a particular variety you recommend?

    • Pbm, The post profiles Edgeworthia chrysantha. There is only one other species in the genus that I know of, E. papyrifera, and it may be just a subset of E. chrysantha. It is not supposed to be as hardy. Carolyn

      • Papyrifera was the first one I owned, after falling in love with the plant at the Atlanta Botanical Garden in the early nineties. It had smaller leaves, grew slower and smaller, and was significantly less cold hardy even for me in Atlanta. I haven’t seen anything but chrysantha on the market for years now.

        As to size, papyrifera may go well over 6’x6′ in time, as I have one that is there in 6 years (in half sun). That said, it doesn’t seemed at all fazed by pruning. If only I were good at shaping!

        As to sun or shade, I have six of these beauties of various ages surrounding my house. It doesn’t seem to care about sun or shade, although full sun leads to droopy leaves in summer. They recover immediately with water.

        I prefer edgeworthia shaped to a single stem, but have seen it grown multi-stemmed also. I think I may let one in a lesser seen part of my garden go multi-stemmed since the stability of the single stem as it ages on a slope may become an issue.

        I’m so glad that you are selling them in PA. I’ve transported quite a number of these to my relatives there in the last ten years, and now have an excuse not to! As edgeworthias age, if you have a little patience, you can root your own by allowing a ground sprout to grow awhile and placing a brick on it to encourage root development. One year later, voila. That said, I’d run to buy one and not lose that year!!! This is — if you haven’t guessed yet — my single favorite plant. I make a habit of gifting it to others so I can see more of them!

      • Lee Lee, Thank you so much for your extensive comment. I had concluded the same thing about sun and shade but on the basis of far less experience so it is great to hear confirmation. Carolyn

  10. So excited–I planted my first edgeworthia this fall, and I’m anxiously awaiting its blooms. I love the photos, Carolyn. I actually adore this plant when it’s just in bud–I think it adds great interest to the garden. Excellent information–thank you!

  11. I am curious whether the Edgeworthia can tolerate growing in a pot. I keep a regular Daphne in a pot so I can move it around and protect it over winter until it grows some. Perhaps it is similar ?

  12. Starr Foster Says:

    Carolyn,
    What a beautiful and elegant shrub! If there are any left I would like to try one in southeast Michigan zone 6 (now changed from zone 5) and will grow it in a protected place, maybe in a area that Japanese maples would like. So please put me on your list – my husband and I drive to Malvern often to visit our daughter and her family so we could easily pick it up on our way. Love the snowflakes too!
    Starr Foster

  13. I saw my first Edgworthia on a garden tour (Patterns?) tucked in a corner, and fell in love with the bark and buds. I bought one at the Scott Arboretum sale in 2007 (?). It’s done wonderfully in my garden. I can enjoy the structure and color from the sun room in the winter, but venture out despite snow or rain for the scent.

  14. Simply beautiful. I was out snapping photos of mine today and was stunned at just how pretty they can be. Yours are gorgeous! Happy holidays to you and your family Carolyn!

  15. The buds are amazing, they realy look like silk tassles. A real gem of a shrub. Christina

  16. Hi Carolyn, this plant was a favorite in the 2011 Native & Deciduous Shrubs class at Longwood. I bought 2 at the Scott sale last year, one of the species and one Red Dragon. The Red Dragon went belly up pretty quickly but the species has thrived in a very windy, exposed southern location in Darlington, MD. My most favorite shrub!

    • Ann, I am glad to hear they are covering edgeworthia at Longwood now. I thought they would be. The shrub I profiled is E. chrysantha. Although there is some confusion about this, ‘Red Dragon’ is a cultivar of a different species of edgeworthia, E. papyerifera, which is less hardy as you found out. I am glad you wrote in because I was thinking of trying it anyway because the flowers are so beautiful. I would love to hear from other readers who have tried ‘Red Dragon’. Carolyn

  17. Lourdes Bufill Says:

    Can I get on the list for an edgeworthia in April? Thank you! Interesting post.

  18. Oh no!! Now I wish I had ordered a paper bush! What beautiful photos. I am however loving my Winter’s Joy! The flowers are beginning to open-thanks Carolyn:)

  19. I’ve seen edgeworthia in a couple nurseries around here, and though the buds and blooms were beautiful, I thought the young plants looked awkward as they were basically a stick with a few measly little branches at the top. The mature bushes you have pictured, however, are gorgeous! How quickly does it grow?

    • Indie, The plants I sold and the ones I planted were in three gallon pots so they didn’t look as awkward as they might have if smaller. Edgeworthia does have a sticky look to it. The first photo in the post of the Scott plant was taken in 2012 and the last picture in the post is of the same plant in 2006 so that gives you some idea. Carolyn

  20. It is such a beautiful plant. I doubt it would take our freeze/thaw and blistery winds in late February/March. It is not offered for sale up here by our suppliers and not grown at the tree and shrub nursery either. Sorry I can not vouch for growing conditions for the plant. I know you have been busy, but did you see a post I did and linked to you?

    • Donna, I only know of one nursery that supplies it down here. It is still quite rare. I keep trying to find time to read blogs and have barely kept up with my emails. I look forward to catching up with your post. Thanks for the link )in advance). Carolyn

  21. I have two Edgeworthia. I brought one with me from VA in a gallon pot, two and a half years ago. It is now almost five feet tall. It is in dappled morning shade, a window of full sun in the mid afternoon, and shaded in late afternoon. There are some growing in the trial gardens at Park Seed (a couple miles from my house) and they are in almost full sun.
    I have a second one that is almost as large as the first one that I bought down here (SC). Had hoped there were two in the pot, wanted to have a row of three. Wasn’t lucky with that. Now I want to propagate one of them so I can have three. Have you done any propagating of these? Or daphne, since they are similar.

    • Janet, Thanks for all that great growing information. Edgeworthias grow fast in SC! Many years ago at the Barnes Arboretum School of Horticulture I propagated a daphne from a cutting using rooting hormone and storing it over the winter in a greenhouse. That is my sole experience. Carolyn

  22. What a surprise to see this in PA, even in southeastern PA. I didn’t think it would be hardy farther north than zone 7. I adore this plant and have one in my zone 7b garden (North Carolina), where it blooms in late February. Here it needs part shade, but I would imagine it would want more sun farther north.

    • Sarah, I don’t have a big sample but edgeworthia seems to be pretty tolerant of shade or sun. If you read the comments, there are plants growing in SC in full sun. I am in zone 7a so not that far off from your zone. The Scott Arboretum plant has been in the ground since 2003, and I think Charles’s may be older because it’s much bigger. The oldest reference to it growing in the US that I have found is 1993 at the fairgrounds in Raleigh. It is such a new plant that I don’t feel that I can make any generalizations about where or how it grows. Carolyn

  23. You have shown photos of this beautiful shrub before but not the open flowers (unless I missed a post). It has wonderful form ! Once again I wish I lived closer to you – this plant is not sold in my area.

  24. I had never heard of Edgeworthia before (relatively new gardener) – that’s a beautiful looking shrub. I looked it up on my local nursery website – they do have stock – but unfortunately, it’s recommended for a sheltered spot here in Scotland and as my garden is quite open mainly due to plants being immature. This may be one for future planting when some of my trees and shrubs ‘get up a bit’.
    I’m pleased I stopped by and now have another beauty to add to my ever increasing ‘wish list’

  25. I could not imagine a garden of mine without this A+ plant. Here in zone 8a mine resides on the the north side of the house and only gets direct sun for an hour or so during high summer. I have found it to be drought tolerant after the first year, unless we are in a bad drought situation. Thanks for helping make this plant known.

    • Les, I agree, edgeworthia is an A+ plant that needs to become better known. Mine seem to be drought tolerant but go limp whenever they are dry. Do you have that experience or do you water them? Carolyn

      • I have seen them go limp in very dry weather, but the pop right back if I catch it in time. At my old job we had one in the display garden that got little supplemental water during dry times, and although the plant lived through it, the flowers were puny the next winter.

      • Les, Our edgeworhtias went limp quite a few times during the summer, but the flowers look fine now. Because one of them had been planted the previous fall, my husband would take pity on them and water them which is against our Carolyn’s Shade Gardens no coddling policy. This summer they will probably have to fend for themselves. Carolyn

  26. This one has been in my sights for a while… and I am glad to hear that you think it is worth giving it a try, maybe even in zone 5? Anything is possible, especially with these mild winters.

  27. Carolyn, I remember seeing this shrub when we visited Chanticleer together last year, and somehow I could not admire it as much as you did. But your photographs are stunning and have obviously entranced your many readers! We are spending Christmas in the foothills of the Himalayas so I am just hoping we might see Edgeworthia in its native habitat. Jill

  28. Louise Thompson Says:

    Carolyn, I can’t get this blog entry to let me leave a comment (maybe it’s full?), but I thought I’d tell you 2 things: 1. The edgeworthia I bought from you in the fall is doing great, and we get to see it every time we walk from the street to the front door. It’s in (what will be) high shade most of the day, some sun in the late afternoon. More feedback as the seasons pass. 2. I’m on the Board of Awbury Arboretum in Germantown, and our landscape manager there, Denis Lucey, says edgeworthia is his favorite shrub by far.

    Louise

  29. [...] – Carolyn’s Shade Gardens “The silky hairs glow in the light, and the plant looks like it is covered with hundreds of silver flowers–simply breathtaking.  …It is a multi-stemmed shrub that forms an almost perfectly rounded umbrella shape of cinnamon colored branches.” – Carolyn on Edgeworthia [...]

  30. [...] is new to me. Carolyn from Carolyn’s Shade Garden wrote an excellent article about them in December. I was quite intrigued by the post, where she included this particular specimen at the College. I [...]

  31. Hi Carolyn
    I would love to order an Edgeworthia for myself.
    I live in MD, and my garden is fenced against deer, but we do have a resident bunny. Will he destroy the edgeworthia?

    Also, I am planning some landscaping within a paved courtyard, and wondering if you can suggest a small, unusual, flowering tree (preferably evergreen). I love multi trunk trees like the Crape Myrtle, but already have quite a few in the front yard.

    Thanks in advance for your help.

    Anu

  32. Hi everyone!

    I recently acquired to beautiful plants that I am going to try in zone 5b, SE Michigan. I am struggling with site selection, but from the sounds of it this beautiful plant can thrive in sun and shade. I am obviously worried about hardiness, so winter protection is an issue. Should I mound up mulch at the base around Thanksgivng like I do with my roses and mums? Should I even go so far as to put up some wind screens for the first winter or two? I can’t wait to care for these and see if I can be successful.

    • I would look for the warmest microclimate you have in your garden. A walled-in secluded corner that faces away from the prevailing winter winds—I am not sure which direction they come from in Michigan. Just because you are zone 5B doesn’t mean you don’t have little pockets of zone 6. I would definitely mulch and protect from wind.

      • Starr Foster Says:

        T,

        Would you mind telling me where you found your edgeworthia? I am in SE Michigan also, so it would be interesting to compare notes. I have a corylopsis – not pauciflora, I forget which one – but this year it has doubled in size and was loaded with beautiful yellow chains of flowers last spring. So I am encouraged to try an edgeworthia. Carolyn’s suggestions for finding a microclimate and mulching are good ones, thanks Carolyn!

        Starr

      • Starr, I hope everyone understands that I am not recommending an edgeworthia for zone 5. I grow mine in zone 6B. The previous commenter was intent on trying it in Michigan so I just told him what I would do if I wanted to grow a plant that’s outside my zone. Generally I stick with plants that are zone appropriate because of the maintenance aspects. I don’t even plant plants that require extra water. Good luck, Carolyn

      • Hi.

        My 2 Edgeworthia survived a brutal 5B winter of extended -20s. One was protected from the South and the East, and the other was totally unprotected.

      • T, Thanks for reporting in. The edgeworthias in our zone 7A area, which never went below freezing this winter, were damaged but not killed, although some didn’t suffer at all. At least now I think we know they are definitely hardy here. Carolyn

  33. I have had an Edgeworthia chrysantha growing in my yard (NE side of house, against a rock wall) on Cape Cod, MA for over 12 years, and it is spectacular every winter thru spring. It did partially die back one winter when it went down to -8, but no problems since. It currently is about 7-8′ high by 12’15’ wide.

  34. So glad to hear someone is growing one on Cape Cod as I am looking for a special plant for my mother! Last winter the buds freezedried and never opened on mine in Germantown (PA), but the plant is fine. It grows against the house with Southern exposure (otherwise not particularly protected) and no supplemental water. And there are photos on google of it growing in containers…..

    • I had a similar problem with the orange (?) flowering “Akebono” cultivar which I planted here in my new home, a little farther east on Cape Cod. It also was very slow to leaf out, so I bought another yellow flowering “Winter Gold” plant which duplicates the one at the previous home.
      The Akebono finally leafed out, so now I have two growing side by side, vigorously.
      The supplier of the Winter Gold plant says that Akebono is less hardy than his, we will see next spring.

      • Hank, I guess the edgeworthias were on a schedule of their own this year. So glad you waited and thanks for letting us know. I have heard that the orange cultivar is not as hardy so I would love to hear back from you in future years. Carolyn

  35. Hello, I am in zone 7b. This coming winter will be our 5th winter together. Mine is about 6 feet tall and the same around, it is in a moveable planter (which I do not move–but I would if we are hit with a hurricane or some other natural disaster), the planter is 4 feet tall, 3 feet wide, and 5 feet long, it is has yellow flowers, and it is gorgeous, but I have a concern. Each time new leaves form at the top of a branch, a lower leaf turns yellow and drops off, it does this all summer long. I love the open form, but I want to make sure there isn’t anything wrong, such as a pest, disease, etc.–which I cannot find any evidence of. It is in a protected location, with morning sun, well mulched with my compost–but no mulch on the trunk, kept evenly moist, and the planter drains well. My Edgeworthia has always done this from the day I brought it home, it survived two terrible winters with only a few lost buds and I think it has grown a foot this summer. The reason it is in a planter is because I want to smell that heavenly fragrance each time I come and go from my front door in the winter. Has anyone seen this behavior on their Edgeworthia? Any advice will be greatly appreciated.

    • Joy, I have noticed that the lower leaves turn yellow and fall off, but I didn’t know it was that regular. I think it’s just part of the way edgeworthias grow. Carolyn

      • I agree with Carolyn, that is just the way they grow. I recall seeing similar on my previous edgeworthia. I don’t see it now on either of mine, but they are pretty small.
        Nice idea on the planter. My previous was around 50 feet from our door, but if the wind was right in March, the fragrance was apparent.

      • Thanks for commenting, Hank, it is nice to have confirmation of information because there are so few edgeworthias around. Carolyn

      • I really appreciate everyone taking time to leave comments. After reading my post–I can see I rambled and that I am very concerned about my lovely shrub. I will continue to keep an eye on her and hope this winter goes well for both of us! We get so attached to our plants–or is it just me?

      • I want people to ramble on about edgeworthias so that the information gets out there!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,190 other followers

%d bloggers like this: