Chimonanthus praecox ‘Grandiflorus’


I  have read in other blogs of snow in America and floods and gales in parts of this country.  I do sympathise. We were lucky  here, yesterday morning the sun shone for a while and I found that  the plump little buds of the Winter Sweet; Chimonanthus praecox  ‘Grandiflorus’ have opened.  This is always a red letter day for me.  it is a large unappealing shrub for much of the year with uninteresting foliage. The trouble is that in order to flower well it needs a privileged position in the sun. In the summer you can think of more beautiful shrubs for this spot. I get round the problem by threading a Clematis viticella through it.

In early January though it is an absolute delight. Fragrance is always difficult to describe. People seem to perceive it differently. Everyone agrees though that the smell of  Chimonanthus is exquisite.I don’t know whether it is a bit like Jasmine, or maybe a little bit fruity- no, it’s no good; any way I think of to describe it falls short. You have to sniff it for yourself and then if you do you will have to have one at all costs. A tiny sprig  in a vase will pervade the whole room.

It blooms on bare branches.I have heard the little flowers described as insignificant. They are not, they are exquisite. They are little, shiny, waxy, yellow  claws with a maroon centre. if you don’t like maroon centres you can get an all yellow one; Chimonathus luteus.     The smaller flowered Chimonanthus praecox has paler flowers but they are quite variable.

The plant produces large urn-shaped seed pods. If you sow the seeds they germinate readily. This is how I came to have a Chimonanthus, I grew it from seed. Before you get  too excited I have to tell you, what nobody told me; you have to wait 7 years for the first flower. Actually I had to wait 8 years and then I got 3 flowers. The shrub  flowers on mature wood. It is lovely now but it is 18 years old. I dug it up and brought it with me when I moved because I couldn’t bear to leave it behind after waiting so long for it to flower. It seemed to resent the move for a year or two but it has settled down now.

So if you have lots of time and patience grow Chimonanthus from seed. Otherwise go and buy one. I would love to hear how other people describe the scent of Chimonanthus. How would you describe it?

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27 Responses to Chimonanthus praecox ‘Grandiflorus’

  1. Alistair says:

    Its always interesting to see a plant such as Chimonanthus praecox in bloom at this time of year. Although I have not had this one in the garden, I must say if I did I would also have a Viticella growing through it, I especially like Etoille Violette. (spelling of it may be dodgy)

  2. Chloris says:

    Clematis ‘Etoile Violette would be lovely, I have it elsewhere in the garden. I love Viticella clematis, they are so useful as you can cut them right back and then they grow up and they look good just as some other things are looking tired. I have ‘Madame Julia Correvon’ over the Chimonanthus and she is a very elegant lady indeed.

  3. Anna says:

    Would love to grow this shrub but not sure whether I have a suitably sunny spot. I’m not surprised that you took this beauty with you when you moved. I think that any perennial that you have raised from seed is extra special 🙂

    • Chloris says:

      It is special, Anna because it flowers in winter and smells so wonderful. but you are right , things you grow yourself are special because they are your children.

  4. A new one on my Chloris – a worthy plant to have if it flowers at this time of the year. I’ll investigate and see if suitable for my garden. Judging by your comments, I’m going to have to source one already in flower. I’m not patient enough to wait that long!

    • Chloris says:

      it is a good idea to find one in flower because then you know it is going to flower for you. Do go and sniff one Angie and tell me what you think the fragrance smells like.

  5. Pauline says:

    What an amazing plant, no wonder you took it with you when you moved, having grown it from seed and waited so long for it to flower, you couldn’t possibly leave it behind. Next visit to the garden centre will see me sniffing round the shrubs!

  6. Julie says:

    I Lost one to a neighbours over enthusiastic builder and have not replaced it yet, but seem to remember a spicy scent, your post is prompting me to go and buy another one.

  7. Chloris says:

    Oh no, how awful to lose it. Do go and find another one. Try and find one in flower so that you know that you aren’t go to have a long wait for the flowers. Yes spicy is good.. but it is more than just spicy.

  8. Alison says:

    I may have to seek one out this year for my front garden. I love heavily scented plants that bloom in winter, it makes giving them space in the summer totally worthwhile. Well done you, on growing it from seed and being patient enough to wait for it to flower. And for taking it with you when you moved. I would have done that too.

  9. Chloris says:

    That is one of the joys of winter so many shrubs have a delicious fragrance, but this is really wonderful. Do go and sniff one whilst they are in bloom and then you will see what I mean.

  10. rusty duck says:

    I left mine behind at the previous house, it never flowered. Think I may need to give another one a go!

  11. Chloris says:

    It needs a sheltered, sunny spot to flower,Jessica, and of course it needs to be mature enough. It is worth trying to suit its needs though, once you get a whiff of that heavenly fragrance.

  12. Cathy says:

    I am surprised you haven’t got pots of Chimonanthus seedlings ready to pass on or sell to interested parties – you have certainly struck a chord with readers! I have read about it but don’t think I have knowingly come across it, so like Pauline I shall be sniffing round the garden centres and other people’s gardens now. Very special to be flowering at this time of year, and to have nurtured it from seed too.

    • Chloris says:

      I don’t bother growing seedlings now because once I tell people how long they would have to wait for it to bloom they lose interest. The last lot I grew and gave to friends are 5 years old now and I think the recipients are losing patience waiting for something interesting to happen. If you find it in bloom anywhere though you will see how special it is.

      • Cathy says:

        I grew a strelitzia from seed many years ago and it flowered after 7 years – but then turned up its toes when I put it outside for the summer and forgot to water it. I shall look out for a chimonanthus but must avoid being tempted as I have nowhere to put one – well,probably not…

  13. Jason says:

    I have never experienced the fragrance of this shrub but I can see why you would give it a much coveted spot. I love fragrant plants, and anything that stands out during a bleak season deserves star treatment.

  14. Chloris says:

    I agree and one of the compensations of winter is the number of fragrant shrubs there are.I try to grow as many sweet smelling plants as possible all year round but especially in winter.

  15. Very nice! I recently saw an article in Gardens Illustrated and I feel in love with it. I ordered it but have not received it yet. But it looks like the colors vary?… The one in the magazine was a white pink and the grower I ordered from was more all white. A very interesting, must have shrub as far as I can tell.

    • Chloris says:

      A pink Chimonanthus? You’ve got me baffled there, Erica I have never heard of such a thing. I hope you will post some photos when it blooms.

      • The link for the one I saw is below that made me want one. It is like a white,pink, purplish color. Do you think it is just an older bloom that was yellow when it opened?–-december-0

      • Chloris says:

        Thanks for the link. You are right it does look white, pink, purple but not yellow. But I think it is the photo that makes it look like this. They do say that it is yellow and if you look it up you will find that there isn’t a pink one. It is just the centre which is purple or maroon.but the outer petals are always yellow. Anyway I’m sure you won’t be disappointed when yours flowers, it is lovely. Much nicer than the photo in Gardens Illustrated.

  16. Flighty says:

    I don’t think that I’ve ever come across this plant. I see that the Chiltern Seeds catalogue just says that the flowers are very fragrant. I probably wouldn’t be much help as my sense of smell, and indeed taste, is pretty poor. xx

  17. Chloris says:

    Well it looks pretty too. But as I said I wouldn’t recommend growing it from seed unless you are very patient.

  18. Annette says:

    Oh Chloris, can’t wait for mine to open! There are about 4-5 buds, I only planted it last year and was thrilled to see buds at all as they do take longer depending on variety and grafting. Couldn’t grow one up to now as it prefers a milder climate. Good idea with the clematis, I shall look into a herbaceous one. The scent for me is definitely jasmine-like (tea that is).

  19. Chloris says:

    I hope you post a photo when the buds open. You are lucky that it is going to flower so soon after planting it. Jasmine is right but I think with fruity overtones. Scents are so difficult to describe.

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