Some plants are well-known and are found in just about everyone’s garden. Other plants are not as widely grown, but they are still familiar to quite a lot of people. There are also some plants that are rarely seen in gardens or available to buy. Sometimes this is because are not so interesting, but often it is because they are easy to grow but hard to reproduce in a nursery. This means these plants are rarely offered, even though when they see them people always say, I must have that gorgeous plant!
The Edgeworthia Paperbush is a plant like that. Because it is so rarely offered it has become almost mythical, yet when seen in bloom it is instantly desirable. It is also easy to grow, so when it is available, this is an immediate chance to have something beautiful, special, exotic and yet easy to grow. Who wouldn’t want that?
So what exactly is it about the Edgeworthia Paperbush that makes it so desirable and such a hit with everyone who sees it? Well, from November onwards the bare branches are covered with large, hanging flower heads that are silvery from the dense, white hairs that cover them. These make the plant interesting and attractive all winter, when there is not much else to see in the garden. As the buds swell and open in late winter, a ball of many flowers will be seen, each one tubular and golden yellow. It looks like the plant is hung with glowing light bulbs. From these flowers a gorgeous fragrance will spread across the garden. A plant in flower is a wonderful thing to see and photographs do not do it justice.
The leaves are large and distinctive. They are around 6 inches long and 2 inches wide, an interesting shade of blue-green on top and silvery-green on the underside. They cluster at the ends of the branches, giving a slightly ‘tropical’ look to the plant. In fall they turn yellow, before dropping. As soon as the leaves drop the flower clusters begin to swell, turning into silver chandeliers by Christmas. With the first hint that winter is leaving, the flowers will open into glowing yellow globes and the exotic perfume of this plant will spread across the garden. The bark is an attractive reddish-brown color, and adds to the beauty of the leafless plant, especially when it is in bloom.
The good news about the Edgeworthia Paperbush is that despite its rarity, this is an easy plant to grow. It grows well in both shade and sun, but prefers some shade in hotter zones. Since it has not been grown in the US for very long, we still don’t have a clear picture on its hardiness, but there are plants growing in sheltered areas of zone 7, and certainly it will grow well in zones warmer than that. Since this is such a special and remarkable plant, it is worth experimenting with growing it in cooler areas too. It grows in most soils, but you should add plenty of organic material and use organic mulch around the roots. Do not plant in poorly-drained soil. Once established your bush will be resistant to some drought, but it will do best with regular watering.
The Edgeworthia Paperbush has an interesting history. It grows wild in the southern parts of China and it has been cultivated there and in Japan for centuries, because the bark was collected and used to make a special, durable paper for banknotes, called mitsumata paper. This use was noted by western travelers in the early 19th century and plants were brought back to England around 1850 by an amateur botanist and explorer called Michael Pakenham Edgeworth, who collected it in the Himalayas. As you can see, both its use for paper and the name of the collector can be found in the names we use for this plant.
Because it was introduced into England so early, it has been much more widely grown there, but it seems it was only seriously introduced into the US in the last 15 years or so. Since then this plant has become a ‘must have’ for many gardeners, who have seen it in bloom and instantly fallen in love.
Here at the Plant Center we pride ourselves on offering our customers a wide range of plants, and we are proud to have found a source of top-quality plants of this rarity. However, as you can imagine, our supplies are limited, so if you want to enjoy this great plant, amaze your family, neighbours and friends, and fill your garden with beauty and fragrance in late winter when there is little else to see, order your Edgeworthia Paperbush now, or risk being disappointed