Multiple award-winning and highly acclaimed within the global hardy nursery stock sector, Anthony Tesselaar and breeder Mark Jury’s new Daphne ‘Perfume Princess’ adds beauty, compactness and an exquisite fragrance to patios, balconies, and gardens while offering plant buyers something exciting in a category that long has been dormant.
Daphne ‘Perfume Princess’ roots go back to 2013; it was first released into the market in 2015 and has risen in prominence over the past decade to generate an estimated USA$5,000,000 in garden centre sales every year. Today, it is one of the fastest-selling of all Daphne varieties.
The new cultivar is produced on nearly every continent on the planet. Master growers include De Nolf Nurseries in Belgium, Kwekerij Ronald Roos in Boskoop NL, Batouwe Boomkwekerijen in Dodewaard NL, Boomkwekerij OUT in Hazerswoude NL, Kerisnel and Rogalski in France, Ball Colegrave and Newey in the UK, Briggs Nursery, Everde, Matsudas Monrovia and Heritage Nurseries in the USA, Humphris, Haars, Benara, Tasmania Plant Growers, Warners and Poplar Grove Nurseries in Australia and Thirkettle, Wallis and Ambrosia Nurseries in New Zealand. Daphne ‘Perfume Princess’ is multiplied through tissue culture to ensure the cleanest stock availability. Licensed propagators include Ireland-based Fitzgerald Nurseries for Europe, Briggs Nursery from Elma-Washington for the USA and Majestic Nursery for Australia.
Daphne ‘Perfume Princess’ success has many fathers, including renowned plant breeder Mark Jury from New Zealand – aka Mr Magnolia – and plant breeder’s agent Anthony Tesselaar Plants from Australia. Both are visionary hortipreneurs, thinking far ahead before developing new ornamental plant varieties better adapted to growing conditions, societal changes, and trade/consumer preferences. Their partnership began in 1999 and has continued to blossom since, with Jury being one of Tesselaar’s important breeder partners.
When asking themselves how to change the future of Daphnes and to determine their market potential, the pair must undoubtedly have considered the latest gardening trends and the news that gardens worldwide are getting smaller. Their new compact Daphne shrub helps modern homeowners to make the most of their green space.
Truth must be told; Tesselaar’s next generation of Daphnes really makes the difference. If you still think of Daphnes as being fuzzy, unreliable, leggy, and awkward-looking plants, Anthony Tesselaar believes it’s high time to refresh your mind. He says, “The evergreen, low-growing Daphne ‘Perfume Princess’ stands 1.2 metres tall and has one metre in width. The shrub features a rounded growth habit and produces masses of delicately pale pink or – since 2021- white blooms in early spring or early winter, now that climate change seems to happen everywhere.”
The natural attraction of this plant is the beautiful citrus-like fragrance produced by tiny clusters of tubular flowers on the branch tips. Daphne ‘Perfume Princess’ is a good choice for borders, but they also love a pot, as long as it’s large and deep enough. Tesselaar adds, “Like any Daphne, the key to successful growing is good drainage and airflow.”
The shrub can act as a stunning focal point and be grown as a low, evergreen hedge, but it also makes an excellent green backdrop for other plants in summer. When in full bloom, it is a magnet for pollinating insects.
Tesselaar notes, “There are only two Daphne ‘Perfume Princess’, in pale pink or white, offering a progression of large blooms along the previous year’s stem, making it a perfect choice to bring cuttings indoors and enjoy the alluringly sweet perfume. It is an excellent performer with upright and slightly spreading attractive evergreen foliage. Positioned in the garden near a window, doorway or path, the sweet scent will add fragrance to home and garden.”
The genus of the shrub belongs to the Thymelaeaceae, a family of trees to perennial herbs or lianas, with 46–50 genera and 891 species. Arguably its most well-known relative in the industry is Edgeworthia, whose tubular flowers exude a sweet fragrance similar to Daphne.
There are 70 species of Daphne, of which only a handful of species and hybrids are grown for gardening and landscaping purposes. It is safe to say that the plant category had long been dormant, with established, lack-lustre varieties not precisely evoking excitement.
Tesselaar’s and Jury’s ‘princessly’ plant marked a new dawn for commercial nursery stock production. By crossing the exceptionally strong garden performer and more heat-loving Daphne bhuloa with the intensely fragrant and abundantly flowering Daphne odora, the Australian-New Zealand plant partnership succeeded in creating a wow factor in Daphnes.
A good dose of serendipity and luck was on their side. Anthony Tesselaar recalls, “It has taken us over a decade to develop, and at one stage, the seedlings were almost discarded. During trials, Mark Jury continued to focus on Magnolia breeding and the Daphne was left and forgotten in the nursery because nothing looked as though anything was worthwhile. A single plant out of all the seedlings was left to its own devices and rolled around the grounds for a number of years without any care or thought. Mark rediscovered this single and planted it out in the garden, and it really took off and amazed him with all the different attributes.”
Daphne Perfume Princess is a prized plant winning prestigious accolades since its inception. In 2016, the shrub scooped up the Australian Nursery and Garden Industry Association’s Plant of the Year Award. One year later, it won the UK’s Horticulture Week Best New Ornamental Plant Variety and the Gold Medal at Belgium’s premier horticultural trade show Florall.
Meanwhile, the award-winning variety has not gone unnoticed by plant influencers. Michael Perry, aka Mr Plant Geek, says: “This is one of the most important shrub introductions for many years; this unique hybrid has brought Daphne to a new level. ‘Perfume Princess’ produces tough plants, and each stem is literally dripping with potent blooms through spring. No wonder they often call Daphne the most fragrant shrub in the world.”
This article first appeared in the May 2023 edition of FloraCulture International.