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Volume 16, Issue 2
February 2018


Daphne rescue!
by Margie Lachman

Daphne "Carol Mackie" has lovely yellow margins on its leaves.

Horrors! My beautiful and fragrant Daphne “Carol Mackie,” which perfumes the garden with its blooms for weeks in the spring, looks like an octopus! Last winter’s repeated snowfalls mashed the center of this lovely shrub to smithereens.

Pruning is an activity which I enjoy and I usually do this task myself. But Daphne is a fussy shrub when it comes to pruning. So I searched the internet for advice before attacking this job. All of this advice can be used to care for and prune other shrubs.

Despite rumors to the contrary, you can prune Daphne, but it is recommended to do it in spring after bloom is finished. Last fall I tried removing any obviously dead branches, hoping for some new growth this spring. But now I realize that more help must be given to return this shrub to a more attractive shape. Waiting for spring is hard so I am researching the project now in preparation for a successful reshaping.

As with any shrub or tree, no more than one third of the total growth should be removed in a season. Each branch needs to be cut by one third of its length and examined for live green tissue. If it looks dead and brown, keep cutting a few inches at a time until you know that you have found live tissue.

If the whole branch is dead, trim the branch as low in the plant as possible. When all dead branches are removed, live ones can be gently staked to encourage a better shape. Two adjacent branches can be tied together with twine to encourage upright growth to improve shape.

If this sounds tedious, it is, but I love this shrub for its ease of care and fragrance. Mine is more than a decade old. I will replace it if necessary. If we have snow again that can damage this shrub I will use a broom to remove it to prevent future damage. It is important to sweep upwards in order to not break branches.

The more you practice the skill of pruning the better you will be. There is definitely an art to shaping shrubs and trees, which I have enjoyed learning. Pruning classes are offered at our local nurseries and at the Portland Japanese Garden in late winter and spring. If you don’t wish to do this task yourself I recommend hiring a certified arborist, especially for trees. After all—even pros occasionally fall off of ladders!

Questions? Email me at or call 503-645-2994.


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