Count me as one of their biggest fans. Even though, yes, I, too, have suffered through "Daphne Death". Even though last year voles killed my gorgeous 'Carol Mackie'. You only have to smell daphnes to know you want them!
They first came to my attention while checking out of a local nursery when I lived in Washington State. "What is that incredible smell?", I wondered aloud following my nose to a flat of six (just six) on a counter. "That's all we have," said the cashier. And, knowing they wouldn't last the day, one immediately came home with me. I didn't know anything about them. Nothing about their...difficulties...shall we say. Good thing. I just planted it and enjoyed it. For two years...and then we moved.
That first daphne was and is still my very favorite, Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata'. Here's the one in my backyard (yes, I have one in the front yard, too...it replaced Carol Mackie...and I have a couple others...but, we'll talk about them another time):
(Click that photo for blooms you can...almost...sorry...smell)
It is...right now...in full glorious bloom! The leaves are a bit ragged (we did have a cold winter, you know...and there are still a few cold nights ahead, it looks like...a bit later in the week), but they'll be replaced with fresh ones. You walk outside and...oh my! This shrub (knock on wood) is a survivor. Summer before last, a window box full of geraniums (don't ask) fell smack on top of it. I grieved for days. I was sure all was lost. And, yes, it has lost most of the back of the shrub...but look at it! It's still going strong! Not a beauty for shape...now...no one would deny the power of its fragrance. I wish I could put a scratch and sniff here for you!
Okay, here's what I think is the secret (besides the usual....good soil, good drainage, etc.)....ready? Don't and I mean don't even think of digging anywhere near your daphne once you plant it. Want bulbs near it? Do it at the same time. No root disturbance! (Hear that voles??????)
I'm taking a chance here. The last two times I have bragged on daphnes (forgive me, but it's not ME, but them...right?)...they (the ones I specifically spoke about) both immediately died on me. Yeah, there were the voles...and uh, the silly plant I decided to plant next to one...but, still...
So, we'll just pretend I never said a thing. Okay?