Nothing lifts the spirits on a cold day like a garden filled with fragrance. Even in the depths of winter, a few hardy plants carry on flowering, perfuming the air and reminding us that spring isn’t far away. We’ve picked our top five plants for winter scent.
1. Viburnum x bodnantense (arrowwood)
This gorgeous winter-flowering shrub starts its spectacular show in autumn, when the dark green leaves turn blazing orange and red before falling. Clusters of fragrant, soft pink flowers then appear on bare branches, providing colour and scent right through the winter months.
Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ is one of the most popular cultivars, happy in sun or light shade and growing into a large, bushy shrub.
2. Hamamelis (witch hazel)
Witch hazels are another group of shrubs that spring into action late in the year, with leaves turning golden yellow and orange in autumn. Scented flowers appear in mid-winter on bare branches, looking like small spidery clusters of orange, red or yellow candied peel. These large shrubs need a bit of space, as well as sunshine and a well-drained, acidic soil, but it’s worth it for that fabulous fragrance.
Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’ has striking burnt-orange flowers and a delicate citrusy perfume. ‘Diane’ has a fainter scent but fantastic vibrant red flowers, and ‘Arnold’s Promise’ produces fragrant, lemon-yellow flowers.
3. Chimonanthus praecox (wintersweet)
Wintersweet is perfectly named, producing modest, pale lemon-yellow flowers with maroon markings inside in January and February. And while the flowers themselves may be low-key, their scent is simply sensational. Wintersweet is a large, bushy shrub that will grow in most garden soils, doing best in sunny, sheltered spots. In very cold areas, it’s best trained against a sunny wall.
4. Mahonia (Oregon grape)
Mahonias are the perfect low-maintenance garden plants – evergreen, happy in shade and flowering in winter just when we all need a splash of colour. Their bright yellow flower spires have a delectable lily-of-the-valley scent that’s a welcome lift in cold weather, and the blue-black berries that follow the flowers are very popular with birds.
Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’ and ‘Charity’ are both excellent, long-flowering varieties, growing into large, striking shrubs.
5. Sarcococca (Sweet box)
Another great plant for a shady garden, Sarcococca is an easy-to-grow shrub with glossy evergreen leaves. Clusters of tiny, creamy-white flowers emerge in winter, hardly noticeable in themselves but so fragrant that passers-by can’t help looking around to find the source of the delicious sweet scent.
Sarcococca confusa forms a large, dense shrub, great for shady borders, while Sarcococca hookeriana Winter Gem is a relatively new cultivar, growing into a compact shrub ideal for smaller gardens.
For a garden filled with colour and scent this winter, come and see our collection of shrubs and other winter-flowering plants. Our staff are always on hand to help and advise.