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Choose Chinese paperbush for winter bloom

Edgeworthia in bloom
Edgeworthia in bloom

After some difficult days weather-wise, it is nice to anticipate what is ahead in the Piedmont landscape this winter.

Sure, things may look a bit bedraggled now; certainly the frozen camellia blossoms look very sad. But things will pick up. A fine shrub called Chinese paper bush, or edgeworthia, will help lead the way back to beauty this winter.

This is an unusual plant and seems to be gaining in popularity because it does well in light shade with rich, moist soil and produces a graceful, stylish shrub.

The flowers, opening in winter, are quite lovely and typically yellow. Each cluster is a tight gathering of many individual, tiny florets that each open to convey a spicy scent that is delightful.

The plant tends to be bare of leaves through the winter, making an interesting silhouette. After blooming, the spring foliage is a attractive blue-green. This makes it an attractive plant all year and one that should be placed where the winter scent will not be missed. Like azaleas and rhododendrons, the flower buds begin to form in late summer and can look attractive through the fall and until they begin to open in winter.

Edgeworthia can get tall, possibly 6 to 7 feet over time. When spacing, give it room to develop because you don’t want to prune it to keep it in a confined space. Let it breathe so the winter silhouette and branching habit can be seen and enjoyed.

The full name is Edgeworthia chrysantha, and it is native to the woods of the Himalayas, China and Japan. The inner bark has been used to make high-quality paper.

While the paperbush calls for moist, rich soil, it requires a well-drained position so that it does not succumb to root rot. Watering is probably essential during any dry weeks in the heat of summer. This is worth the attention it requires as the paperbush can be a valuable asset year-round to a shaded landscape. Aim to keep the soil evenly moist for best results.

Ask Nancy

Q. Since the open camellia blooms were ruined by cold weather, what about the buds that are still on the plant?

A. They should be fine and open in time, especially ones that are still green and rather lush looking. Brown ones that appear dead and frozen are not likely to open.