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Edgeworthia chrysantha – Paper Bush

Categories:Plants We Love (Mostly) Shrubs Winter Interest

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Much will be made of Paper Bush’s (Edgeworthia chrysanth) late winter bloom, and rightfully so, but a savvy gardener understands that flowers are often a bonus on shrubs, trees, and many perennials.

Paper bush shines in all seasons.

paper bush
Paper bush will have leaves this healthy-looking all the way through to fall.

During the growing season tropical (but not too tropical) leaves adorn paper bush and remain healthy and beautiful right into fall. Edgeworthia’s fragrance is strong, pleasant, and always a surprise in winter.  Flowers are light yellow and open when little else is in bloom, although I find the blooms to be fairly unimpressive, pleasant and little more. Paper bush’s bark is smooth and medium brown, and the branches weave an immaculate web.

Winter display of paper bush is architectural.

edgeworthia paper bush
Paper bush in mid-winter. Flowers are still maturing at this stage.

Size is 4-8′ feet wide and tall…paper bush in my experience does seem to grow a little larger than many sources report.  We shall see, but I do remember when David Austin first started importing his ‘New English Roses’ into the U.S., and plants here were often double their reported maximum size.

Edgeworthia chrysantha is reputedly finicky to establish but has always been easy to grow wherever I plant it, so long as shade and moisture are in abundance.  I’ve seen Edgeworthia growing fine in full sun, but the leaves can get droopy, akin to mophead hydrangea leaves’ habit.  I prefer to keep those big leaves out of the afternoon sun. Edgeworthia chrysantha is hardy zones 7-9.

Well-drained soils are mandatory. We lost a paperbush.

The cause was root rot over time. This was an established plant that had grown for years in well-prepared rich soil. Every gardener loses plants but this was a shocking turn of events. In our inner garden, the greyhounds run and plants have a rough time of it, sometimes in unexpected ways. When we pulled the dead limbs out of the earth they came away easily. The roots had let go. Any gardener will tell you this is a somewhat sad and humiliating experience, to realize we didn’t provide proper care for another living thing.

It’s my fault we lost the paper bush, not his.

Over time the dogs had compacted the soil and the plant had grown up, and these two things led to a lack of aeration and poor drainage. It’s a cautionary tale at my own expense. The good news is paper bush is very easy to grow so long as you ensure excellent drainage.

The only real drawback at present is the price. I’m not really sure why Paper bush seems to fetch a pretty penny…the species doesn’t seem to be particularly slow-growing.  Look around, as I have seen some widely differing prices in local nurseries.

paperbush
Edgeworthia at night. Buds developing.

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