This plant has a very curious flower head – fully rounded golden pompoms of tightly packed, almost waxy flowers. Sweetly scented too, which is not surprising because it is a close relative of the daphnes, but because it does not mass flower, it lacks the fragrant oomph of its cousins. Each flower head is only about 3cm across, not much larger than an old fashioned gobstopper. Gardneri is still newly introduced to the west – it comes from Nepal – not easy to propagate from cutting and rare. I tell you this because several years ago we did manage to get some plants successfully growing and offered them on the mailorder list we used to put out. At the same time a gardening magazine showed a photograph of the flower but gave no idea of the size. Somebody in Palmerston North tracked us down and ordered the plant. We shipped her down a splendid specimen but she was not happy. She was expecting a flower more akin, I suspect, to the size of a cricket ball rather than a pingpong ball. She sent back this rare and choice shrub. It cost her more in freight than the plant was worth, but clearly it was a matter of principle because she felt short-changed by the size of the flower.
There are only two, maybe three, species of edgeworthia. The more common Chinese form, papyrifera or chyrsantha, is deciduous but gardneri is fully evergreen and makes an open, airy bush with a graceful appeal. It is not particularly hardy and won’t thrive in areas with cold winters. It has good nectar for the tuis and we are planning to add another plant in full sun to feed our butterflies.