I love to have perfumed plants in my garden all year round, as while I love flowers, having flowers with perfume is like having cake with icing! Here are some favourite scents at Sophie’s Patch this winter.
Daphne (Daphne odora).
Without a doubt, this is an essential in every garden! This winter flowering, dwarf shrub is loved for the delicious, sweet clove scent of its pinkish-white flowers. There are a number of new cultivars such as ‘Eternal Fragrance’ and ‘Perfume Princess’, and for those who love pure white in the garden, the white flowered form, D. odora ‘Alba’, has a sweet lemon-like scent. I love to pick a few sprigs for inside as a small vase of Daphne will perfume a whole room. Daphnes have a reputation for being temperamental, but if their basic needs are met, they are actually incredibly tough! They prefer well drained, humus rich, acid soil, and don’t like wet feet. Despite this I have been able to grow them successfully here using my salty bore water. There may be some leaf burn, but they live, whereas there have been many plants that haven’t survived. If you haven’t got much space or the right conditions, Daphne make great pot specimens if grown in an open potting mix suitable for acid loving plants.
Wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox)
This is another favourite of mine which also works well in a vase. It is a tall deciduous shrub with ordinary foliage and poor autumn tones, but once the leaves fall the bare stems carry waxy, many petalled, cup-shaped, yellow flowers, with a delicious strong, sweet, and fruity scent. Growing 2.5 to 3 metres high, it should be positioned where it is concealed by other plants during the warmer weather but placed near enough to paths or entrances for its perfume to be appreciated in winter. I have this growing near my back door.
Winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima)
This rampant, semi-evergreen plant is more a sprawling bushy shrub than a climber like most other honeysuckles and its vigour is perfect for hiding a small garden shed. In winter it produces small, creamy-white flowers along its canes each with an incredible sweet and fruity scent. I have it growing at the base of my windmill tank stand.
South African Sagewood (Buddleja salvifolia)
I have many different Buddlejas or butterfly bushes in my garden and love them all for different reasons. This one flowers in winter-spring with huge clusters of smoky lilac fragrant flowers on the tips of pendant branches. The foliage is felted and grey green – sage-like, as its name suggests. It branches from the base, and to keep it compact, it must be cut back hard every few years to induce fresh growth. This is an attractive winter-spring flowering shrub for the large garden, providing a valuable source of winter food for honey eating birds. I also grow another late winter spring flowering variety known as Himalayan butterfly (Buddleja crispa). It is also a big spreading shrub, but it has large, heart shaped, downy silver foliage which is very attractive and makes the plant worth growing for its foliage alone. I grow it against a stone wall facing northwest, where many other plants have failed, and it loves the hot baking situation in summer. Its flowers are soft lilac pink flowers on short spikes and when the whole bush is in flower, the scent is delicious. Although not as visually stunning as some of the other Buddlejas, it certainly warrants a place for its scent and foliage.
Wallflowers (Cheiranthus mutabilis syn. Erysimum mutabilis)
The common perennial wallflower produces small heads of flowers in shades of purple, yellow and apricot and with a delicious, sweet clove scent. They are extremely long flowering and make a great long lasting cut flower. I also have ‘Winter Joy’ with its clear purple flowers and a yellow form which I love too. These are shrubs to 1m high and not to be confused with annual, bedding wallflowers.
I absolutely love growing hyacinths is pots which I can bring indoors to enjoy when in bloom. Their colourful, dense flower heads are amazing and their scent intoxicating. The bulbs which grow in my garden are simply ones I have grown in a pot and then plonked outside when the finish flowering. They ever get to be as tall or large as they were the first year after purchase, yet they still bloom, perfume the air and bring me joy.
The orchard is lined with rows of jonquils which are still flowering after two months, and their scent also perfumes the surrounding garden. I always have a vase of them in my home and while some people don’t like their perfume I do. Be aware that not all jonquils smell the same and so you may prefer some to others.
There are of course many more scented winter wonders like Luculia, Camellia sasanquas and Magnolias, however the conditions and salty bore water at Sophie’s Patch aren’t yet favourable for growing them.