The lowdown on fragrant winter shrubs

Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ has fragrant flowers during the coldest months of the year

Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ has fragrant flowers during the coldest months of the year


Plant shrubs for fabulously fragrant winter flowers.

Winter days might be short and the weather gloomy, but it’s well worth going outside to experience the delightful fragrance of some of our winter flowering shrubs. Try planting one of these shrubs near to a path that you use regularly in winter to get the full benefit of their scent. These shrubs tend to be less interesting during the rest of the year, so plant with shrubs that are more showy in the spring and summer.

If you have enough space you could plant one of the larger winter-scented shrubs. Witch hazel is a slow-growing spreading shrub, which can look a little like a small tree and makes an attractive specimen plant. They have spidery-looking flowers in a range of yellow, orange and red colours, which vary in their degree of fragrance. The most fragrant is the Chinese witch hazel Hamamelis mollis, which has yellow flowers and eventually grows to around 4 metres (13 feet) tall. Other fragrant varieties to try are Hamamelis mollis ‘Wisley Supreme’ and Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’.

Wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox) is a slow-growing shrub that eventually reaches around 3 metres (10 feet) tall. It can also be grown as a specimen shrub, but needs shelter from cold winds, which means it grows particularly well if it can be trained against a sunny wall. The flowers are yellow with purplish centres that have a fragrance that gives the plant its name.

Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ is an upright shrub growing to around 3 meters (10 feet) tall, producing intensely fragrant flowers on leafless stems from late autumn to spring. The buds are pink and the flowers fade to white as they age. It is fully hardy and can even tolerate some shade.

The sweetest honeysuckle (yes, that is its name) Lonicera fragrantissima has small white honey-scented flowers. It is classed as semi-evergreen, which means it will keep its leaves during milder winters. It grows to around 2 metres (6 feet) tall and isn’t very spectacular to look at, but the fragrance of its flowers makes it worth growing.

Sweetest honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) has small but beautifully fragrant flowers

Sweetest honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) has small but beautifully fragrant flowers

Finally, for anyone with a very small garden, try the winter-flowering heather Erica carnea ‘Springwood White’, which grows to around 15cm (6 inches) tall. This doesn’t need an acid soil to grow, unlike some other heathers, and is a useful evergreen groundcover shrub, as well as being covered in many small white scented flowers during winter and spring.

This is just a small selection of the winter-flowering scented shrubs available. Why not visit some parks and gardens to find your own favourites? Savill Gardens near Windsor has many varieties of fragrant plants, particularly in their Winter Beds. Kew Gardens has cheaper ticket prices during the winter and always has plenty to see and do.

 Disclaimer: The information given in this blog is very general and results can be affected by many kinds of local conditions, such as weather, soil, aspect, etc. The author therefore does not accept responsibility for any loss or failure as a result of following any suggestions given.

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