The coastal Pacific Northwest is famed for the richness of its winter garden plant palette. And one of the very best winter-interest plants we can grow here is the Nepalese paper daphne, Daphne bholua (pronounced bow-LOO-ah). A small shrub with an upright, open habit and narrow, medium-green leaves, it reaches at least eight feet high and three feet across and can be evergreen or deciduous, depending on the cultivar. Flowering usually begins around New Year’s and features starry clusters of white or pink blossoms that emit a sweet and powerful fragrance.
In the plant’s native range, throughout much of the Himalayas and neighboring mountain ranges, its thin outer bark is used in paper making, while the inner bark is harvested for fiber used in the production of rope. Generally not put to such practical purposes in Northwest gardens, Daphne bholua simply serves as a delight to the senses. It grows best in partial shade and moist, well-drained soil, and in a location sheltered from strong winds.
In the Arboretum, see this daphne at its best in the Witt Winter Garden.
—Randall Hitchin, Arboretum Foundation