SCENTED WINTER PLANTS
Have gorgeous aromas and beauty in the cold months
During the months of December to February and March, when winter holds us in its icy grip, the sight of anything in bloom in the garden seems incredible. And the fact that those flowers that do brave the chill are often highly scented is even more miraculous.
The likes of winter honeysuckle and viburnum exude an intense fragrance that carries on the air. But while these deliciously scented winter flowerers are undoubtedly appealing, many of them are also enormous, and enjoying them can seem unfeasible in the small garden. The fragrant witch hazel
Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’, for instance, reaches 10ft x 10ft (3m x 3m), and the honey-scented mimosa (Acacia
dealbata) soars to almost 50ft (15m)! But fear not, be smart with space and you can incorporate even the relative giants, while many fragrant winter plants are considerably more compact.
Save on space
Some winter-flowering shrubs can be grown against a wall, reducing the amount of room they need. Consider growing the white forsythia
(Abeliophyllum distichum) against the sunny side of the house. its bare branches are adorned with almondscented flowers in February and March. You can also maximise space by growing a summer-flowering climber like Clematis ‘Comtesse de Bouchaud’ through a winter shrub. Lonicera x purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’, for example, produces perfumed white blooms from December to March, but does very little for the rest of the year, so why not employ it as a scaffold for clematis?
Alternatively, embrace more generous proportions by using a fragrant winter shrub as your main garden tree. Pruned over time, large shrubs such as Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ form charming little trees, providing a mass of scented flowers during the cold months and a leafy sanctum for birds in summer. Pruning gargantuan shrubs to keep them compact is another option, of course, but be careful because some don’t flower well after a haircut. Cut back Camellia sasanqua ‘narumigata’, and it won’t produce many of its teascented blooms; but leave it to grow and it could bloat to an imposing 19½ft/6m!
Less is more
One option that can be pruned to keep it compact is Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’. in addition to the scent its yellow flowers exude from november to March, it offers architectural evergreen foliage and will tolerate shade. Easier still, some fragrant winter-blooming evergreens are naturally compact, including Daphne odora ‘geisha girl’ (1m) and Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis (2ft/60cm-3¼ft/1m).
Choose the right varieties and plant generously, and snowdrops and narcissi can also fill the air with scent. Galanthus ‘Magnet’ and ‘nothing Special’ smell of almonds and honey, while many narcissi (ready to plant now) have a powdery perfume. Try N. tazetta ‘geranium’ or ‘Avalanche’, elegant whites ‘Petrel’ and ‘Thalia’, and the Jonquilla ‘Segovia’.
Let the perfumes of winter flowers swirl through the icy air, while the rest of the garden sleeps its winter slumber.
A treat for the nose and the eyes, compact Daphne mezereum fills the winter garden with fragrance and looks lovely dusted with frost Grow Abeliophyllum distichum against a wall to enjoy its fragrance even where space is an issue