Adding magic to your garden with winter fragrance.
Whilst working as a garden designer, I am often asked to provide some winter interest to a garden. It is often easy to turn to the visual; using evergreens, and coloured stems to add a visual impact in the coldest months. One aspect that is easy to overlook is fragrance.
Our sense of smell is such a powerful thing, a fragrance can evoke strong memories for us, and it is something that I ask clients about: Which fragrances do people really like, and which ones should we avoid.
You would be forgiven for not being aware of many plants that flower in winter, for the main reason that they are often not very showy plants. The flowers are often white or yellow and sometimes small, but chosen well and put in the right spot, an unassuming plant can add a wonderful dimension to what is the dullest part of the year.
Here are some of my favourites.
- Top of my list is the Winter Honeysuckle. Lonicera x purpusii ‘Winter beauty’. This relatively small shrub sends out small creamy white flowers on bare stems. The smell is divine. It is a hardy plant and doesn’t offer much interest in the summer months other than light green leaves, but makes a good frame for a summer flowering clematis. Place it near a path or an entrance and breath in the sweet delights.
- Second on my list: The evergreen Sweet box or Sarcococca Confusa. There are several varieties of sarcococca, but this one has the sweetest and strongest fragrance. I once came across a whole bed in a front garden, and it was so intoxicating I was swooning by the time I reached the front door.
- Viburnum x bodnantense is another deciduous plant that flowers on bare stems. Its pink buds open to the palest pink flowers, in lovely clusters and is remarkably long flowering from autumn to winter. It offers interesting leaves too, that turn fabulous bronze in autumn. It grows in a tall but narrow shape so is useful for a smaller space.
- Witch hazel is by far the most showy of the winter fragrant plants. Best grown in acid soil, its orange/yellow flowers with their spidery petals offer a firework display with a rich scent.
- There are many varieties of mahonia, and it isn’t always a popular plant because it is quite spikey, however as an evergreen that flowers in winter, with a variety of yellow to red flowers to choose from, this sweet-smelling shrub shouldn’t be overlooked. But don’t put it too close to the path.
- It does what its name suggests. Chimonanthus needs a fairly sheltered sunny spot, to release the sweet perfume, but its yellow cup-shaped flowers can fill your garden with perfume.
- Daphne odora, is a pretty, fairly small evergreen shrub, with beautiful deep pinky purple flowers that fade to pale pink in tiny clusters. Its perfume is deliciously sweet. Perfect in a container near a doorway.
- Winter bulbs. Best planted in a pot – because it’s easier to smell them, some wonderful bulbs can be all it takes to put a spring in your step on a sunny winter’s day. Winter iris: iris reticulata, and Snowdrops in a pretty pot can look amazing and smell divine.