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?