Paper bush is the rather non-descript name given to a very beautiful shrub. However, what the name lacks in excitement it makes up for in its accuracy because this plant is used as a source of fibre for the making of high-quality papers used for calligraphy and painting in the Asia, China and Japan.

Indeed, the bush gives the game away itself by the obvious springiness of the smaller branches. This is especially notable in early spring when the plant is in flower. The springy nature of these young shoots is due to long fibres within the twig. To make the highly prized paper, the shoots are stripped of bark and crushed to release the sought-after fibre.

This is then pulped. When a uniform paste-like, watery suspension of the fibre has been achieved, the water is allowed to drain away, leaving a thin layer of fibre. Once compressed, this forms an absorbent, textured paper suitable for creative use.

Botanical name

The botanical name of the paper bush is Edgeworthia, the name given to the plant in honour of Michael Pakenham Edgeworth, keen botanist and administrator working for the British Raj of the nineteenth century. He was a step-brother of Maria Edgeworth, the famous writer, and is also connected to the town in County Longford called Edgeworthstown. This strong Irish connection with the paper bush has added to the attraction of its great natural beauty.


Edgeworthia is part of the Thymelaecae family, aimed initially for its thyme-like foliage and its olive-like fruits. Although there are a considerable number of genera in the family. The only one that is likely to be known for gardening growing is Daphne. The family connection is quite strong with small green leaves in summer and tubular, small flowers. However delicate are the flowers of Daphne with their four lobes, those of edgeworthia are even more delicate and graceful. And both species are fragrant.

The best-known, and most widely grown kind of edgeworthia available for sale and in gardens is Edgeworthia chrysantha, the second part of the name meaning yellow. It was formerly known as Edgeworthia papyrifera, the specific name referring to use of papyrus to make paper.

Garden value

Edgeworthia is very low-key during the summer months. The plant is scarcely worth growing as it appears to be something of a disappointment.

When the flowers open in late winter and early spring, this impression is quickly banished. The flowers are bright yellow with white hairs to protect them from frost, seeing as they come into flower so early in the season.

The fragrance is very sweet. The flowers are carried in numerous clusters, opening over a period of several weeks.

Growing edgeworthia

The paper bush is prone to severe frost damage unless it has the assistance of a wall or some light cover of trees. This is more likely in the colder parts of the country. If a greenhouse or conservatory is available, it can be used to ensure an even more high-quality show of flowers. Although it can reach to over 2 metres, in conditions in a greenhouse, it can easily be kept to a lower size. Keep it moist, never wet and feed once a month.

Kitchen garden

Growing fruit trees in the kitchen garden this week.

Growing fruit trees and bushes

Why, oh why, people say, can we not get more Irish grown fruit? Fruit-growing is a commercial endeavour subject to the rigours of the market. For instance, it is possible to grow very high-quality fruit of apples and strawberries but demand can be influenced by distributors and retailers of these crops.

If however, you wish to try growing fruit, it is possible to get good results in most parts of the country.

Passing from Limerick to Derry, the eastern side of the country is reliable for most ordinary fruit crops. To the west of that line rainfall levels are higher and the soil quality is not as good. But even in these unpromising areas it is possible to grow apple, pear, plum, strawberry, raspberry, blackcurrants, red currants, and in recent years good crops of blueberries.

For successful fruit-growing, choose a suitable site with good deep topsoil. Top it up if it is less than a spade depth. The drainage needs to be good and the site should offer some shelter to allow an increase in air temperatures during the summer when growth is best. If your finances can reach to putting up a fruit cage, results will be much better by avoiding the damage birds can do.

Fruit, vegetables and herbs

Sow vegetable seeds if the ground is dry enough, main-crop vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, broad bean and early peas, onion sets, shallots and garlic. Sow cabbage and cauliflower for late summer and autumn. Spray apple trees for apple scab disease and check for greenflies.

Trees, shrubs and roses

Spring shrubs such as forsythia, should be pruned as they go out of flower, but only if the bush is growing too big and there is not enough room for its growth. Roses will need regular spraying against blackspot disease, especially in view of wet weather.


Watch for slug and snail damage. Bedding plants should be grown on strongly to get good size, spacing the plants well to give them room to grow. Tubers of begonias and dahlias can still be potted up for later planting outside.


As growth picks up, begin to mow more often, but only if the soil is not too soggy. It is still early to apply lawn feeds, but it can be applied if the soil has dried out. Trim edges and re-cut border edges if necessary.

Greenhouse and house plants

Feed strongly now to get good growth before mid-summer and water well. Spray a grapevine for mildew with rose spray if it had the disease last year. Greenhouse grapevines should be pruned before now ideally.

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