The garden in winter can seem cold, drab and lifeless. But this doesn’t have to be the case as there are winter flowering shrubs that not only provide welcome colour during the darkest days, but also pump out delicious perfume as well. To cope with harsh weather at this time of year, flowers in winter tend to be small, giving them a more subtle understated charm. And to attract what few pollinating insects there are around, they’re usually highly scented too. Positioned by a front door or path, they can work wonders to lift the spirits, so here’s my recommendations of ten scented winter flowering plants.
Chimonanthus praecox (Winter sweet) – a fairly non-descript shrub in summer, so best planted with summer flowering plants, but in winter yellow bell-shaped flowers with a slight spicy fragrance adorn the bare stems. It grows best in a sunny sheltered position.
Clematis cirrhosa – an evergreen climber with scented bell-like speckled cream flowers throughout winter. It looks great over a pergola or arch where the flowers can be fully appreciated.
Coronilla valentina ssp. glauca ‘Citrina’ (Scorpion vetch) – this evergreen shrub is a member of the pea family so has distinctively shaped flowers like miniature sweet peas. The flowers are lemon yellow, sweetly scented, and bloom from late winter into spring and then again in late summer – double the value! The flowers look fabulous against the blue-grey leaves. It does need a sheltered position so does best against a south or west facing wall.
Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ – a small neat variegated evergreen shrub with strongly scented pale pink flowers throughout winter. The glossy dark green leaves have yellow margins. It prefers a sunny sheltered spot so is a great choice beside a south or west facing front door.
Edgeworthia chrysantha ‘Grandiflora’ (Paper bush) – this deciduous shrub looks quite unusual when the large rounded heads of small tubular, bright yellow flowers appear on the ends of the bare stems in late winter. It has a clove-like scent and needs a sunny sheltered spot to grow.
Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’ (Witch hazel) – unusual and distinctive spidery orange flowers appear throughout the winter on the bare stems of this slow growing deciduous shrub. The flowers are slightly scented. There’s also another fiery display in autumn when the leaves turn shades of red, orange and scarlet.
Lonicera fragrantissima (Winter honeysuckle) – you tend to think of honeysuckles as summer flowering climbers, but this is a semi-evergreen shrub with sweetly scented creamy white flowers that fill the air with perfume throughout winter. The flowers are followed by red berries. It flowers best in a sunny spot.
Mahonia x media ‘Charity’ (Oregon grape) – an architectural evergreen shrub with an upright habit and spiny pinnate leaves. Scented bright yellow flowers appear in erect clusters from late autumn through winter. It can work well as a focal point in a shady spot.
Sarcococca confusa (Sweet box) – a small, neat, rounded evergreen shrub with spidery cream flowers that have an intense fragrance throughout winter. It does best in a shady position, so it’s perfect next to a north or east facing front door.
Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ – Viburnum shrubs are great do-ers and this one’s no exception. As soon as the leaves fall in late autumn, clusters of intensely fragrant dark pink flowers appear on the bare upright branches. The flowers fade as they mature and last until early spring.
Unless you’re out to create a dedicated winter garden, you’ll probably only want one or two of these in your garden, especially where space is a premium. But I think the inclusion of some winter colour and scent is a most welcome addition to any garden. What’s more, all the plants I’ve recommended are pretty low maintenance, requiring minimal pruning and care, which can only be an added bonus.