Friday, January 10, 2014

Winter Perfume Pt 1

It may seem at times lately that spring has already arrived but rest assured we are still in winter. But as we look to longer days and more consistent warmth, there is one wonderful late winter treat to look forward to -- the sweet fragrance of certain flowering shrubs. Many will think immediately of daphnes and that's certainly a great place to start. I have yet to meet anyone not intoxicated by the intense fragrance of these evergreen shrubs. But daphnes are just the beginning. Here are a few more of my favorite winter perfume plants.

Edgeworthia chrysantha. First come the hard flowerheads with the white buds then slowly as the weather warms, each one pops open to reveal intensely sweet smelling yellow flowers.
Pittosporum x burkwoodii. Pink winter buds open to surprisingly intense fragrant white flowers. Tough like other pittosporums, but not as big as some.
Sarcococca ruscifolia or S. humilis. Called Sweet box or Christmas box, this shiny-leaved shrub makes up in fragrance what it lacks in the size of individual flowers. Some say the flowers smell like gardenias. An unassuming star in the winter fragrant garden.
Pieris japonica. Although some say Pieris aren't all that fragrant, a friend and I were out walking and came across a pieris in full bloom and the scent was intoxicating. Case closed.
Brugmansia. Not all Angel's trumpet trees are fragrant but the ones that are, like the popular Charles Grimaldi, offer up a one of kind dreamy scent.
Ribes sanguineum. There's no mistaking the spicy scent of flowering currant. And it isn't just humans who are under the spell of these winter flowers -- hummers will find them in an instant.
Citrus. Let's not forget about our lemon, lime, orange and other citrus friends. It may be great picking the fruit when it eventually forms but first come the super fragrant flowers. Bees especially are drawn to the flowers.
Ornamental cherry trees. Though the perfume of these February blooming trees is more subtle, the flowers nonetheless exude a delicate sweet smell.
For something not as much of a commitment of space, there are a number of late winter perennials and bulbs that offer a similar perfume.Start with familiar fragrant bulbs such as freesias and hyacinth. They are some of the first to bloom in early spring. Add in bearded irises, some of which are possibly the most fragrant of all bulbs.
It isn't just bulbs. Certain primroses offer a heady fragrance, especially certain of the yellow flowering ones. Add in Viola odorata, a tough little ground cover with fragrant purple flowers. And lastly, for those who plant their sweet peas early, they will be treated to a cornucopia of sweet-smelling blossoms.
Personally, I think winter fragrant plants are a gift from the gardening gods, something to get us through until spring arrives.

Okay, here are a few photos from my garden, including a few of the plants mentioned above.

I want to dispel the notion that Moraeas are difficult to grow. Here's M. polystacha, one of the easiest. Soon to follow will be the dramatic M. villosa, known as Peacock moraea.

This may look like a fern but it's a club moss, Selaginella kraussiana variegata to be precise. I love its frilly look and bright green colors. 

It's the time of year for S. African bulbs and one of the first to bloom is this orange bulbinella. Very cheery and popular with bees.

One of my favorites in the Japanese-theme dwarf conifer bed is this curious Chamaecyparis Nana Lutea. I love the twisting 'panels.'

Lots of plants are described as having 'black' foliage or stems but this Datura Blackcurrant Swirl's stems are very, very black.

Last time out I posted a web photo of a Justicia rizzinii. Well, mine has finally begun blooming. Here's an open flower and one still budded. Charming.

Speaking of charming, my "what time of year is it anyway" Fuchsia denticulata is blooming. Such a great color combination.

I usually don't post photos of my Viburnum tinus but what the heck, it was feeling left out. It's formed a huge bush and is starting a new blooming period. Not as fragrant as the V. x burkwoodii but a great landscape shrub.

Finally a photo that does justice to my salmon Christmas cactus!! So lovely!

My Daphne odora marginata was started from a 4" pot less than a year ago and it's progressed steadily. I hadn't expected it to bloom in its first year but yea!!

Here's the aforementioned Viburnum x burkwoodii. It apparently can't wait for spring so has decided to bloom now. No complaints here. Such an intoxicating fragrance, sort of like daphne, only with musky overtones.

Another shot of my Rose campion. It has simply ignored the edict that one shouldn't plant it in the fall, that it'll suffer under the cold weather. Nope. It's added its own silvery tones to others in the narrow walkway leading up away from the street.

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