In late winter, the appearance of clusters of small, scented, lime green flowers nestled below the leaves give the final clue to the true identity. This is Daphne laureola, one of our two native daphnes, the other being the deciduous Daphne mezeureum, on whose bare stems fragrant pink blooms appear before the leaves in February.
To keep it or dig it out? That rather depends on how much you like it. Given its ubiquity, I don’t think I’d paticularly seek it out in a nursery, although a slightly posher cultivar with frilly flowers, Daphne laureola subsp. philippi, offers a little more to the inveterate collector. If you find yourself in possession of a specimen, you can be reasonably assured that it won’t go crazy in a UK garden – although it can run from the roots, it’s unlikely to do so with alarming vigour, spread as it is primarily by birds who find its black berries (poisonous to humans) a choice treat in spring. Thought it might be considered a weed, it can form a rather attractive shrub, one which thrives in the kind of dry shade conditions that has other plants turning up their roots. If yours has obligingly plonked itself in a convenient position, I’d be tempted to leave it be, admiring its deep, glossy green foliage and revelling in the harmony between the dark leaves and the citrus green flowers in winter. More often than not, though, it’ll will have decided to grow in a particuarly inconvenient spot, getting up close and personal with your mexican orange blossom, in which case I’d hoik it out. Being rather deep rooted, a feature it shares with other daphnes, I’d also save myself the anguish of trying to nurse it through transplant shock, and wait for an obliging feathery friend to sow one in the right place.
|Daphne laureola, bottom centre, trying hard to look like Choysia ternata|