Anything that makes the garden more inviting in winter has to be a good thing, am I right? So this week I thought we might look at plants with attractive scents for winter – easily overlooked, but worth exploring if you believe, as I do, that a garden should work hard for you for twelve months of the year. Most of the favourites on my list are winter flowering shrubs that will sit quietly in the wings for months until it’s their time to shine – so placing of them needs careful thought. If possible, you want them near the front door, or near a path where you can enjoy the fragrance as you pass – but you might want to combine them with something more decorative for the rest of the year.
First up is Sarcococca hookeriana or Sarcococca confusa, also known as sweet box, a small to medium evergreen shrub with clusters of tiny white, very fragrant flowers, followed by shiny black berries – a good one for tucking into a mixed border.
Lonicera ‘Winter Beauty’ is bigger and deciduous, flowering towards the end of winter on bare stems - a closer look at the fragrant tubular flowers reveals their membership of the honeysuckle family.
If you have acidic soil, Hammamelis mollis or witch hazel will do well for you – its strange little orange or yellow flowers have a spicy, warm citrussy scent that’s a real tonic – grow in a pot with ericaceous compost if your soil is alkaline.
If you have the patience, as it’s very slow growing, Daphne ‘Jacqueline Postil’ is a stunner – deciduous with clusters of pink blooms, with the most heavenly fragrance.
For larger gardens, Mahonia ‘Charity’ is worth a look – evergreen with clusters of yellow flowers and a perfume that strongly resembles lily of the valley.
Most of these shrubs are good for cutting – just a sprig or two in a little jug or jam jar brightens up a winter interior no end, and the indoor warmth encourages the fragrance too. Add a few snowdrops if you can – their honey scent goes unnoticed outside – and winter seems just that little bit shorter!
Clusters of bright yellow for the winter garden - Mahonia is a good choice for bigger gardens
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