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16 October 2014
Gardener's Corner

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Autumn 2001
John Cushnie On...

Winter Fragance

Even on the most miserable, cold, wet, dull day of winter your garden should smell as sweet as a discount perfume store.

In summer the scent of flowers seems to be more noticeable on warm, calm days. Not so with winter flowering plants. These tough, no nonsense plants dispense their fragrance whatever the weather.

There is something about a flower which willingly exudes its perfume rather than making you bring it close to your nose and sniffing.

There is a surprisingly long list of excellent perfumed, winter flowering plants many of which are suitable for cutting and decorating the Christmas table.

Sarcococca confusa is an amazing shrub which you could not be faulted for ignoring if you lack the sense of smell. The small, evergreen leaves are glossy, dark green.

The tiny, creamy-white male and female flowers appear in winter and are followed by black berries. It is a good plant for growing in shade.The perfume is fantastic. If you are within 20 feet of the plant, it will find you. How any tiny flower can produce so much fragrance is incredible.

Winter Sweet is a lovely name for Chimonanthus praecox. A deciduous shrub with sweetly scented flowers in winter.They are pale yellow, each with a purple stain at the centre of the flower. Unfortunately it only starts to flower after 3-4 years but it is worth waiting for.

Another deciduous plant that grows to a large size is the Chinese Witch Hazel, Hamamelis mollis. Flowering in winter on the bare stems, each flower is curiously shaped. They resemble spiders made of thin strips of lemon peel.This year,after the mild autumn, they are flowering early. The winter scent from even a few blooms is memorable.

Jasminum nudiflorum is also yellow, flowering on thin, bright, green stems.It grows well against a wall. Already in flower, pick some stems for the house and the perfume will fill every room.

I must mention Mahonia Charity, Daphne mezereum and a favourite of mine Lonicera fragrantissima. I think they are well worth planting but I will let your nose find out for itself.


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