Top 10 plants for seasonal scent

SOME OF OUR MOST FRAGRANT plants flower in winter, with scents that pack a surprising punch. Louise Curley nominates her favourites

1. Chimonanthus praecox

A deciduous shrub with spicy scented blooms that dangle delicately from bare stems. The flowers are unique with an outer set of petals, waxy in texture and almost translucent, and inner petals like a petticoat, which are lemony-yellow with maroon streaks. Needs full sun and a sheltered location. Train against a south-facing wall where the added warmth will ripen the wood, encouraging more flowers. Can take several years to flower, but it’s well worth the wait. H and S2.5-4m (8-13ft)

2. Sarcococca

A mass of tiny white flowers heavily perfumed with a vanilla-like fragrance emerge in early winter, hence the plant’s common names of Christmas box or sweet box. Happy in shade and dry soils, this is the perfect plant for tricky spots under trees or next to hedges. The glossy evergreen leaves are welcome throughout the year. Sarcococca confusa forms a large shrub up to 2m (6óft) tall, or choose more restrained S. humilis, which forms bushy hummocks. Plant in moderately fertile soil. H and S1m (39in)

3. Viburnum bodnantense ‘Charles Lamont’

Dense clusters of blush-pink flowers appear on bare stems from early winter through to spring. The flowers are sweetly scented (like marzipan) and perfume the air around them. It’s an upright deciduous shrub, which is happy in full sun or part shade. Needs moist but well-drained soil. Plant in a sheltered spot so that the blooms aren’t turned brown by frost. This cultivar has lighter pink flowers than the better known ‘Dawn’. H3m (10ft) S2m (6 1/2ft)

4. Daphne bholua

For fabulous winter fragrance, daphne is a must. Plant near a path or entrance and you’ll be greeted with a spicy, citrus scent from its whitish-pink flowers. Position in a sheltered, sunny spot to make the most of the perfume. ‘Peter Smithers’ is a reliably evergreen cultivar with dark green leathery leaves. It has an erect habit and forms a medium-sized shrub. H1.5-2.5m (5ft-8ft) S1-1.5m (39in-5ft)

5. Hamamelis (witch hazel)

Witch hazels make attractive shrubs. Give them some space so you can appreciate the goblet-like structure of the branches. Clusters of unusual flowers, which resemble citrus peel and have a spicy fragrance, appear on bare branches. Colours range from pale yellow through to fiery orange and vibrant red. An added bonus is attractive autumn leaf colour. Plant in full sun or part shade in neutral to acid soil. H and S4m (13ft)

6. Edgeworthia chrysantha

This is an unusual, rarely grown plant with flowers that smell of honey and spices. Its yellow, fragrant, tubular flowers are held in spherical clusters on the tips of bare stems. The flower buds are covered in lots of tiny white hairs that give a soft, downy appearance. Hardy to about -5C (23F), so not for every garden. It shouldn’t be planted in frost pockets, and, to give it the best chance of flowering, plant it by a south-facing wall. H and S1.5m (5ft)

7. Mahonia

With their spiky, glossy evergreen leaves and bushy habit, mahonias provide great form and structure in a winter garden. They also produce masses of small, bell-shaped yellow flowers that smell similar to lily of the valley. Blooms are followed by blue-black berries. Plant in full or part shade in moist, free-draining soil. Large cultivars grow up to 4m (13ft); for something more compact look for Mahonia aquifolium ‘Apollo’ (pictured). H1-4m (39in-13ft) S1.5-2m (5-6óft)

8. Lonicera fragrantissima

This winter-flowering honeysuckle produces creamy-white small flowers along the length of almost leafless branches. The flowers might be small, but pick just a few stems and you can fill a room with their sweet honeysuckle scent. It makes a sprawling deciduous or semi-evergreen shrub and is ideal for the back of a border. It flowers best when planted in a sunny, sheltered position. Likes moist, well-drained, fertile soil. H2m (6óft) S3m (10ft)

9. Skimmia confusa ‘Kew Green’

Grow this for its fragrant white flowers in April and May that smell like lily of the valley. In winter its buds are acid green and the foliage is fragrant when crushed. This male cultivar doesn’t produce berries, but it’s a useful pollinator for other skimmias. Plant in sun or part shade in fertile, well-drained soil. The leaves will turn yellow if grown on chalky or dry soils, so mulch in spring. H50cm-1m (20-39in) S1-1.5m (39in-5ft)

10. Coronilla valentina glauca ‘Citrina’

A small evergreen shrub with attractive blue-grey leaves that contrast well with the zesty lemonyellow, fragrant flowers produced in later winter. The pea-like flowers have a scent similar to narcissus. Needs full sun and shelter. Try growing as a wall shrub against a south or west-facing wall. H and S50cm-1m (20-39in)

READ MORE Subscribe to our digital edition