How to choose fragrant plants for your yard and garden.
There were still patches of snow on the ground as I walked outside to survey the damage done to my garden from the ice and snowstorm, we had in mid-February. Our yard was covered with branches that had fallen from nearby trees and as I looked at some of the trees surrounding me, I could see where many branches had fallen with some still hanging on. I knew of one neighbor that had lost a huge limb from an oak tree in their front yard. However, on this day I was focused on what had happened in my own garden.
As I approached the archway leading into our back garden, I picked up on a sweet fragrance and knew immediately it was from my Edgeworthia, often called the Chinese Paper Bush because the inner park was used to make a high-quality paper. Not commonly seen in gardens here but deserving to be better known. It is one of the earliest blooming shrubs we have in our garden and certainly one of the most fragrant. The small clusters of yellow flowers emerge from silvery buds. When we had the snow and ice, I saw that the flower buds were covered with ice and thought for sure they had been frozen. But no, they came through the weather quite unscathed and are perfuming a part of our garden.
I don’t often think of Viburnums as being a shrub for winter fragrance, but Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ is an exception. While the name of this Viburnum is not easy to pronounce, to my knowledge, it does not have a common name. This is a large shrub, reaching 8-10 feet in height so it needs to be in the background of a flower bed. The outstanding feature of this plant is the small clusters of pink flowers that appear on naked stems in the winter. The flowers are very fragrant and stems from the plant can be brought indoors for flower arrangements. The stems can be cut as the flower buds are swelling but before they have all opened and then they will gradually open and extend the life of the bouquet.
Perhaps there is no winter-blooming shrub better known than Daphne odora (Winter Daphne). The fragrance from these small purple and white flowers can permeate an area in the garden with its delightful scent. While plants can be very unpredictable in their behavior and can die even though they have been lovingly cared for and then sometimes thrive with little attention, they are worth having just for the powerful fragrance. The variety ‘Aureomarginata’ is widely grown because of the yellow-edged leaves which are attractive year-round.
One of the easiest plants to grow that can provide a wonderful fragrance throughout the garden is Sarcococca (Sweet Box). The small white flowers are almost hidden among the foliage which sometimes makes it difficult to detect where the scent is coming from. I have found that they perform best with some shade and they like a soil rich in humus. Sweet Box is an evergreen shrub that does not require much care, especially when considering the wonderful scent it provides in the winter months.
While we do not usually identify honeysuckle as a shrub, Lonicera fragrantissima (Winter Honeysuckle) is a deciduous shrub with extremely white fragrant flowers in the winter. It can be a large shrub, up to 8 feet or more and is not particularly attractive for most of the year so plant another shrub or perennial in front of it. Budded branches can be brought indoors for flowers and fragrance.
There are probably many other plants that provide winter fragrance. This listing includes plants that I see in my garden or neighboring gardens as I walk my dog. I think it is quite fun to be walking and pick up on an unexpected fragrance and then try to figure out what it is and where it is coming from.