Archive for ‘scent and fragrance’

January 18, 2013

Winter beauty smells so good – Winter Flowering Shrubs

by Ciaran Burke
HAMAMELIS 'ARNOLD PROMISE'

HAMAMELIS ‘ARNOLD PROMISE’

Sweetness and spice… inhale! Ah yes… sniffing the delicious scent of witch hazel flowers is good for the soul. The fuzzy yellow flowers, or orange or red, depending on the cultivar, are borne with delicacy along barren stems as the darkest days start to stretch towards a brighter spring.The sweet spicy scent of Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’ is one of my favourite fragrances in the garden. The hybrid witch hazels are crosses between two asian species, H. mollis from China and the japanese H. japonica, and there are many fine cultivars from which to choose. We grow the red flowered H. ‘Ruby Glow’, but unfortunately it lacks the rich scent of other cultivars.

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Ruby Glow'

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Ruby Glow’

Under a large old native hawthorn tree, new shoots of aconitums are emerging from the cold earth, reaching to the light and creating green splashes on a blank canvass of winter soil, blank except for the three young bushes of Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis. This trio of dwarf evergreen shrubs have tiny flowers without petals, the white blooms borne in the leaf axils and on a calm day their scent journeys through the air, filling the air with sweetness.

SARCOCOCCA  FLOWERS CLOSE UP

SARCOCOCCA FLOWERS CLOSE UP

The delicate almost translucent flowers of the bush honeysuckle, Lonicera fragrantissima, possess a fragrance similar to their woodbine cousins that scramble through hedgerows in summer. Borne in pairs the pale blooms are coloured only by yellow anther tips of their stamens, but their smell brings a warm glow of summer-like scent to a cold winter’s day.

PAIR OF FLOWERS OF LONICERA FRAGRANTISSIMA

PAIR OF FLOWERS OF LONICERA FRAGRANTISSIMA

I checked the naked stems of the winter sweet shrub, hoping in vain to see flower buds, but we will have to wait at least another year for the pleasure of smelling the scent from the pale glassy yellow flowers of Chimonanthus praecox. Young shrubs need time to flower, each january since we planted it a few years ago we hope to see signs that is has at last matured to flowering, but we will have to wait a while longer.

WINTER SWEET CHIMONANTHUS PRAECOX FLOWERS

WINTER SWEET CHIMONANTHUS PRAECOX FLOWERS

A shorter wait for us will be to enjoy the most magnificent winter scent of Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postil’. The deep pink buds are loosening, the petals starting to unfurl. I checked it yesterday, but I knew long before any close inspection that it was not yet blooming. When in full bloom, it is more likely to smell the plant before you see it, such is the power of its perfume, wafting on calm winter air throughout the garden like no other shrub.

FLOWER AND BUDS OF DAPHNE BHOLUA 'JACQUELINE POSTIL'

FLOWER AND BUDS OF DAPHNE BHOLUA ‘JACQUELINE POSTIL’

Daphne bholua was introduced to western gardens from the Himalya in 1938, it is a shrub that still remains in comparative obscurity despite having a heavenly scent and one of unmatchable strength in the winter season, perhaps in any season. It has pproved hardy through the two cold winters of recent times, losing its foliage after temperatures of minus 17 Celsius, but recovering well in Spring. A large and quick growing shrub to 2.5 metres or more, evergreen or sometimes deciduous, depending on cultivar and climate, it us unsurpassable in winter beauty and an invaluable asset to any garden where a gardener has a working nose and an appreciation of scent.

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