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Winter-flowering scented plants

Val Bourne / 16 September 2015

These plants can provide beautiful fragrance in your late autumn and winter garden.

Wintersweet has a beautiful fragrance in the middle of winter

Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’

This tall viburnum could be grown in the hedge and the pink heads of flower will still waft their fragrance far and wide. In mild Novembers it will smell strongly of hyacinths. (10ft x 6ft/ 3m x 2m)

Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’

Another November performer in mild weather, this upright architectural shade lover produces racemes of scented, pure-yellow bells above prickly mahonia foliage. Performs in deep shade. (16ft / 5m)

Eleagnus x ebbingei

An evergreen eleagnus with metallic silvery foliage and small white flowers, but in November the sweet perfume is really noticeable. Can be grown as a specimen or as a hedge. (10ft/ 3m)

Skimmia x confusa ‘Kew Green’

This looks sumptuous in bud, with lilac-like heads that open to ivory-white, scenting the air in late-autumn or early winter.

Sarcococca x confusa

The green-leaved Christmas box with the ivory white flowers. Suitable for a container, or for good soil. Best in a warm position.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’ or ‘Aurora’

The witch hazel hybrids smell of freesias, but it’s important to source them from a good nursery such as Ashwood Nurseries because some varieties smell of toilet cleaner. Slow growing, but eventually a medium to large shrub.

Azara microphylla

A Chilean wall shrub with tiny green leaves and small mustard-yellow flowers that smell of vanilla. Needs a warm wall, but there is no scent like it.

Chimonanthus praecox (Wintersweet)

A large ungainly shrub with foliage that tends to get leaf miner in summer. However this has the strongest fragrance of all the winter shrubs, producing clawed translucent yellow flowers with a ruby glow at the centre. Lovely to pick in winter. (10ft/ 3m or more)

Lonicera x purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’ (Winter Honeysuckle)

Another Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde plant, looking untidy in summer but rewarding you with bee-friendly ivory-white flowers in the second half of winter.

Daphne bholua

Evergreen winter-flowering daphne with pale-pink highly scented flowers in January. These normally appear with evergreen foliage, although this columnar daphne will shed its foliage in severe weather. It can succumb in exceptional winters - but it’s still worth it!

For more scented plants for the rest of the year, read Val Bourne's recommendations for scented plants for a sunny garden.


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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.