winter plant subscription

Winter scents

How can you keep garden interest throughout winter?

Many gardens will have one or two winter flowering shrubs in them. Viburnum bodnantense Dawn, Hamamelis (witch hazel) and Mahonias are some of the most common, however, there are others, including Sarcococca (christamas box), Chimonanthus (winter sweet), and Daphnes.

Some have striking coloured flowers, the witch hazels in particular with their striking spidery yellow or orange flowers, whilst others exhibit pale shades of yellow and white, The flowers of the Sarccoca are tiny and almost insignificant, and those of the winter sweet hang down on bare branches. However, the thing that unites them all is the fact that they all have striking scents, often strong and sweet, but all very rich.


Viburnum bodnantense Dawn will flower from October to March with pink flowers on its bare stems. Its rich scent will fill a garden with scent on all but the windiest of days. Chimonanthus, the aptly named winter sweet will fill a room with a sweet scent if a branch or two is brought inside or if it is planted under a window. It has small pale yellow flowers which hang down from its bare stems. However for me, the star of any winter garden is Daphne Bohula Jaqueline Postill. This semi-evergreen shrub has masses of tiny star-shaped pink flowers from the beginning of January through to late March and has a scent all of its own.


So why do plants put so much energy into producing such a strong scent in the depths of winter?

They have evolved this as the best technique to attract the few pollinators that are around in the cold, dark days of winter. Bees in search of nectar on a warm day are attracted to the strong sweet smell of a Daphne or Christmas box. So, if you wish to maintain a garden which is beneficial to insects all through the year, it is essential to include one or two of these in your garden.


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