Officially it is Oriental paperbush; others call it Chinese paperbush or just paperbush. While some describe it as a mounding, suckering deciduous shrub, I think it is like a beautiful piece of art in the garden. Like the names suggest it has been used to make fine paper.
Botanically speaking it is known as Edgeworthia chrysantha, and it resides in the Thymelaeaceae family with 50 genera mostly unknown to gardeners other than the daphne with its heavenly fragrance.
The Edgeworthia is native to the Himalayan forest with a cold hardiness in zones 7-9. Several Winter Gold Edgeworthia are growing at the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens in the shade garden and other areas where azaleas would be at home, and they are exquisite.
This 6-to-8-foot mounding shrub is a shrub for all seasons. During the summer its shape and foliage give the impression that it is related to the rhododendron. While you might hate the thought of it being deciduous when the deep-green leaves have fallen the plant will take your breath away with its form and structure adorned with clusters of silver-sheened buds that you will treasure during the months leading up to the beginning of blooms in late winter.
These buds start to open in mid-January or when the weather pattern puts together a string of warm days. Hundreds of small fragrant yellow flowers begin to open lasting an extended period before spring arrives.
In the spring, plant them in an area receiving morning sun and afternoon shade or high filtered light. The soil should be fertile organic-rich and well-drained. Prepare the soil by adding three to four inches of organic matter and till to a depth of 10 inches. If you have tight, compact soil, consider planting on raised beds. Plant the oriental paperbush much like you would an azalea and finish with a good layer of mulch.
In Savannah, and many other areas, we are plagued by high deer populations, and I am happy to report that the paperbush is not on the menu. Deer resistance and no pests make this a shrub to keep on your watch list. Though they are still not the staple at the garden center, there are over a half-dozen varieties. So hopefully the situation will quickly improve.
In our shade garden situated under the canopy of tall pines, we have them near ferns, golden variegated forms of gardenias, Florida Sunshine anise, a variety of hydrangeas, and azaleas. I assure you Winter Gold paperbush will gather just as many ‘oohs and aahs’ as any of those companion plants. One last thing, honeybees seem to know when the paperbush blooming season commences.
(Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of, “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South” and “Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden.” Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.)