Winter scent

Sarcococca confusa
Sarcococca confusa

Winter has arrived. The sodden ground has frozen solid and there is a light dusting of snow. I have been trying to introduce scent as a major element in the garden with mixed results. I sometimes read of plants whose scent “fills the air” but in reality is quite elusive. A still day with just a hint of warmth or moisture is often required.  Another factor is that scent is intensely personal. One that delivers on all fronts, at least for me, is Sarcococca or sweet box. The plant above is Sarcococca confusa, photographed this morning. It is covered in tiny flowers but also retains some black berries. It is easy to grow and also easy to propagate as it produces small rooted suckers. The scent is powerful and does carry. A couple of sprigs will last a week indoors. It is sometimes a welcome finding in municipal planting schemes, a bank of it is prominent in Princes Street gardens in Edinburgh.

Another plant that seems to work is Mahonia. The one below is Mahonia japonica bealei. It is a little softer and less alien in appearance than some of the other varieties. I can also recommend Viburnum bodnantese Charles Lamont. I have put mine in the wrong place i.e. in the middle of a border where I have to clamber over other plants to appreciate its scent and lovely flowers. One reliable avenue to winter scent is to have some of the numerous evergreen plants whose foliage you can crush e.g. Rosemary, Choisya (Aztec pearl is good), Helichrysum and many others.

Mahonia bealei
Mahonia bealei