“Cutting edge” is a phrase, especially in the plant world, that is not easily defined. For the Scott Arboretum, it represents plants that are not very well known in public gardens, private gardens, and the horticulture trade.
I first saw Edgeworthia chrysantha growing at the state fairgrounds in Raleigh, North Carolina in 1993. We were being given a tour of the gardens and collections by Tony Avent, who now owns Plant Delights Nursery. It wasn’t until several years later that we added it to the collections at the Scott Arboretum. Many sources (i.e. catalogs, books, etc.) would lead you to believe that both Edgworthia chrysantha and E. papyrifera are not hardy in the Delaware Valley. After trialing both at the Scott Arboretum for 5 years, we have found both perfectly hardy.
This deciduous relative of Daphne forms a perfectly rounded shrub. Our best specimen is in the Cosby Courtyard where the stout stems form a dense head. This plant is 4 feet tall with a spread of nearly six feet. In the summer it is covered with long strap-like leaves which give it a somewhat tropical effect. Toward the end of summer the flower buds for the next spring are borne. They look like silver, silky spiders. As the leaves drop in the fall the flower buds are revealed and provide considerable winter interest. In late March to early April each bud opens revealing several tubular yellow flowers with a sweet fragrance.
We have several plants on campus, but the ones that perform the best are grown where they receive sun for most of the day. They thrive in soil that is rich in organic matter and does not dry out during periods of drought.
Just yesterday I received the Gossler Farms Nursery catalog. On page 11 was a plant I have coveted for years, Edgeworthia papyrifera ‘Red Dragon’. I first saw this plant growing at the Eisenhut Nursery near Ticino, Switzerland. Like E. chrysantha, it has early spring flowering clusters, but these are a vibrant reddish-orange. So, even though the catalog states “We have found E. p. ‘Red Dragon’ is more tender than E. papyrifera” given our past experience with supposedly tender plants this warrants inspection by the Scott Arboretum.
Learn more about “cutting edge” plant at the Scott Arboretum with me on Saturday, Oct. 11 from 9:30 am to 2 pm during our Horticulture Seminar: Cutting Edge Trees, Shrubs, and Vines.