It is a rare plant that can stop you in your tracks from several metres out and have you sniffing the air to locate the source of scent. The Himalayan D. bholua is one of those plants. In our experience it is the strongest and sweetest of any of the daphnes and it has a very long flowering season because it sets buds down its stems. It is also very hardy. That is about the sum total of its merits.
As a garden plant, it becomes leggy, scruffy and untidy with age. It seeds down too freely and suckers around the place so when you think you have dug out one plant, it is just as likely that the suckers will pop up all around to confound you. It is semi deciduous. In cold conditions, it will drop all its leaves. In temperate conditions it drops some and of those it retains, only half look healthy while the other half look as if they are dying. Its natural form is upright but twiggy and untidy. Even the named cultivars we have tried are no better.
But we would not be without it. Oh, that scent. It all comes down to placement. Basically, you need to hide the plants behind something more attractive so you enjoy the scent while not expecting to admire the plant. I cut back and try and shape some of our larger plants from time to time, but it does not make a lot of difference to the overall appearance. You can never have too many fragrant daphnes in a garden and the narrow, upright habit of bholua means those plants are not going to hog too much space.
First printed in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.