From the Desk of Ed Hume: Winter Fragrances

January 13, 2010 at 1:32 AM Leave a comment

EDIT: The incorrect draft of the article was uploaded by mistake.  We apologize for the inconvenience.  The correct article is now available

One of the important considerations in selecting plants for landscape purposes is their fragrance.  Of course, it is impossible to list within one article all of the varieties and types of shrubs and trees that are fragrant.  However, in this discussion I will mention some specific plants that offer nice fragrance during the Winter months.

First, lets take a look at most of the plants that flower during the Winter.  Did you know that many of them are fragrant?  You may ask, “Now, why would they be fragrant?”  The answer is simple:

There are not many insects in that are active during the Winter, so ‘Mother Nature’ basically only provides fragrance as a means of attracting those insects that are active at the time to visit and pollinate the plants that are in bloom.  As a result, these plants are able to complete their life cycle of reproduction.

The Daphne family offers a couple of Winter-flowering varieties that are very fragrant.  One is the Winter Daphne Odora and the other is the February Daphne Mezereum.  The Daphne Odora is evergreen and flowers in the late Winter and earliest Spring while the Daphne Mezereum is deciduous and usually flowers in late January and February as the name implies (Side note: The bright berries on the Daphne Mezereum are poisonous.  Be careful!)  Both are wonderful plants to use for late Winter fragrance and the cut branches can be used in Winter arrangements.  One thing to keep in mind: Make sure to provide them with protection from the hot Summer sun.  An Eastern location is ideal, otherwise the hot summer sun is apt to burn the attractive variegated leaves.

Another of the late winter flowering shrubs that really merits serious consideration is Sarcococca.  There are a couple of varieties of this plant, particularly Humilis and Ruscifolia, that have aromatic late Winter flowers.  Both of these plants grow in a shady part of the garden.  The flowers are very small and basically hidden by the leaves, but the fragrance is very noticeable.  The variety Humilis is relatively low growing and is often used as a shade-loving ground cover plant, while Ruscifolia may grow 3 to 5 feet or more.

One of the really popular deciduous shrubs is the Chinese Witch Hazel, Hamamalis mollis and other members of this plant family.  These plants generally have an interesting growth habit and sweetly fragrant yellow Winter flowers.  Plant them in a bright sunny part of the garden.

Many gardeners consider the late Winter flowering Viburnum burkwoodii as a must for the Winter garden.  The clusters of pink flowers are about 3 to4 inches in size and carry a nice pleasant fragrance.  Their cut branches are very popular in Asian flower arranging.  They grow best in full sunlight, and can get up to 10-12 feet tall.

I think the biggest mistake made in planting these wonderfully fragrant plants is that they are usually planted back in the outer parts of the garden.  Bring them up close to the entry or wherever winter foot traffic is heavy so their aromatic fragrance can be fully enjoyed and appreciated.

-Ed

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Ed’s Podcasts: Helleborus Clip of the Week: Pruning Fruit Trees

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