Searching for interest in the garden at this time of year can often be a challenge. The early bulbs may be starting to show, the wonderful range of coloured and textured tree barks can be appreciated, and of course our feathered friends are keen to put on a display for us if we position a feeding station outside the kitchen window. But it’s not always our eyes that alert us to those much needed highlights. The nose can often lead us towards things that the eyes have overlooked.
Walking past the front door at Genus HQ this week an overpowering scent caught our attention. Further investigation led us to the sweet box. Sarcococca confusa, that we’d planted some ten years previously. The flowers may seem insignificant but when the sun shines and the wind is low the smell can linger and fill this part of the garden.
This brought out the hunting instinct in us and within five minutes we’d found more shrubs in flower. The red stemmed Sarcococca hookeriana next to the garage was also in flower. Our two witch hazels that reluctantly put up with our limey soil were both in their flowering prime. Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ had buds that were about to break, and just next to it, though not scented, were the lengthening catkins of Garrya elliptica and our ever reliable Choisya ternata in flower for almost 12 months of the year.
Over on the north side of the garden in the shrub border, Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ was just going over, its clusters of pink flowers still just holding onto their delicious fragrance. Next to this a large Lonicera x purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’ with its yellow anthers and white tubular flowers (pictured) is another of our great scented winter performers that comes alive when a low winter sun just lifts above the copse and warms the volatile oils. In future we’re going to be more ‘nosey’. It can add another often overlooked dimension to the winter garden.