There are so many plants to give interest and distinction to the winter garden and I am always seeking out new ones. I have several books on winter gardening and they have chapters on winter colour, interesting plant structure, leaves, bark and berries. But none of my books say much about the most exciting thing in the winter garden. One of the great pleasures of January is sniffing out the various delicious scents that plants use to entice early bees. The flowers all have a delicate, fragile beauty, they don’t use gaudy dress to entice pollinators, just delicious scents that waft round the garden on the breeze, intoxicating any passing bees and me. So my vase today is dedicated entirely to fragrant flowers.
At last the queen of the winter garden is opening her dark pink buds to reveal a sophisticated, sweet perfume which stops visitors to my house in their tracks as it grows by my front door. Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ is the very best of her tribe.
I have two winter flowering honeysuckles, and both smell fabulous. Lonicera x purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’ is a large shrub and is full of delicious smelling cream flowers borne in pairs along the branch.
Lonicera elisae is quite rare and the shrub is more beautiful with fragrant tubular pink flowers which are hairy.
One of my favourite winter flowering shrubs is Chimonanthus praecox which has yellow claw-like flowers on bare branches. The centres of the flowers are maroon and the scent is exquisite.
Sarcococca is a winter flowering shrub with far too many ‘c’s’ but I wouldn’t be without it. The walkway from the car park at Anglesey Abbey in Cambridgeshire is lined with and the scent is amazing. I would like to copy this idea but they are expensive to buy. But still Sarccococca hookeriana var. digyna does sucker, so perhaps one day I might have a hedge of it. The tufty flowers smell of honey with a musky overtone which some people dislike but I love it.
Sarcococca confusa, bottom left in the next picture has darker green leaves and cream flowers and produces lots of black berries which I have never got round to sowing.
I have several Witch Hazels in bloom now and I have used a couple of twigs, one from lovely ‘Vesna’ and one from ‘Orange Peel’ which I always think smells vaguely of orange peel, but this is perhaps the power of association but still it is very sweet. The scent of Witch Hazels is often undetectable in the garden but when you bring it into the warmth of the house it is lovely.
I love the tattery, crazy sea anemone flowers of Witch Hazels and I have lots of them, but not as many as the Witch Hazel queen, Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.
The other three shrubs I used are Mahonia media ‘Winter Sun’ with yellow flowers that smell of Lily of the Valley, a sprig of a bright blue Rosemary which blooms all through the winter and pink Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’.
The blue flower of the Algerian Iris unguicularis unfolds in water and is lightly scented. Quite a few snowdrops are scented, the one I have used is Galanthus ‘Ginn’s Imperati’ which has a sweet fragrance when you bring it indoors. This vase has been sitting on my table for an hour or so now and the scent in my dining room is absolutely gorgeous.
In a Vase on Monday is hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden and no matter what the season she never runs out of creative ways of inspiring us to bring some of the garden indoors to enjoy.