For something beautiful in the depths of winter...
In winter, nothing beats the quick waft of fragrance as you walk in your garden – your eye immediately looks for the flowers – nearly always associated with scent – but in winter, flowering shrubs are usually tiny and much less conspicuous than the blousy flowers of summer. These shrubs are best planted on a pathway still used in winter, by a doorway or beneath a window – choose your position carefully but there is still time to plant now ready for the months ahead.
My top 5:
Sweet box, Sarcococca confusa – an extremely useful evergreen shrub with glossy dark green leaves and elegant white flowers, highly scented with a vanilla-like fragrance. Compact in size, it is excellent in containers and copes well with dry shade.
Nearly everyone has a Viburnum of some kind in the garden, many flower in spring and summer but the winter-flowering varieties can flower from November through to March, choose Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ for dark pink flowers.
Winter honeysuckle, Lonicera x purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’ - a prolific, winter-flowering shrub with clusters of creamy-white flowers from Christmas to April; so very useful for growing a summer clematis through.
Needing more space than the others, Witch hazel, Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’ has copper-orange spidery flowers and is less often seen than the more common yellow variety Hamamelis mollis, while ‘Diane’ is a wonderful copper-red variety. The flowering twigs can be cut to add their lovely spicy fragrance to a room.
My final choice (and absolute favourite) is a Daphne – with its highly-scented attractive purple flowers; the easiest variety to grow is Daphne odora, the most prized - Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill' but my personal favourite is Daphne mezereum with its stiff upright branches covered with small flowers in either purple or white with the most amazing Lily-like scent. Just perfect to lift the spirits on a grey winter's day.