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Posts Tagged ‘Spring scent’

I’ve just spent the morning working in a client’s garden that was packed full of Sarcococcas (Christmas or sweet box). The perfume was intoxicating, mesmerizing even, and it just got me thinking about how important scent is in a garden.

Plants with a powerful winter scent jump to mind easily,

such as the delicious Viburham bodnantense ‘Dawn’ (above),

the subltle perfume of Daphne Bholua (above),

and the delicate aroma of Mahonia japonica (above), with a scent akin to that of Lily of the Valley,

but as the year progresses, I find myself  being seduced into using colours, form and texture for planting plans,

with scent really taking a back seat. So while sitting on a bus, I gave myself the challenge of calling to mind flowers and shrubs that provide fragrance for the garden for the rest of the year.

Euphorbia Robbiae with Hyacinth ‘Blue Jacket’

In  March and April I recalled the heady scent of Hyacinths really knocking my socks off,

and Clematis armandii delicately perfuming the air , especially on warm sunny days in March and April. Oh, and the delicious honey scented Euphorbia mellifera.

Pittosporum tennuifolium flowers

The flowers of Pittosporum tennuifolium are so tiny and dark that you barely notice them , but last April, the sweet scent caught me unawares as I passed by this wonderful (and very useful) evergreen shrub whilst I worked away in my own garden. Will grow happily in semi-shade too.

May did fox me for a while, but Lily of the Valley has to be one of my all time favourite scents, and how could I forget Wisteria (call myself a gardener!).

For June, July and August, fragrant choices abound from Roses (which flowered well in to December last year too!), Lillies,  mock orange-Phildelphus and star Jasmin-Trachelspermum jasminoides. But I started to struggle as I mentally planned ahead for the autumn months.

Roses will still be flowering in September, and then I remembered the delicious scent and waving wands of Actaea Simplex (aka Cimifuga atropurpurea) as I entered into the magical Jardin Plume  last year. These should flower well into October too.

And taking us through November and December is the wonderful shrub Camellia sesanqua, a joyous surprise, both for its loud scent and riotous colour (and also happy in semi-shade),  as autumn turns into winter and the rest of garden looks as if it’s shut up shop for the year.

Erriobotya in bloom 2Another evergreen and beautifully architectural largish shrub (or small tree)  is Eriobotrya japonica, also known as a Loquat. More subdued in colour and perfume than the above Camellia, its scent is a real treat when least expected on a frosty morning in November and well into December.

Then I thought I’d start all over again with all year round colour, then all year round structure and this brought me back to the Sarcococcas, planted where I was working both as evergreen arching shrubs (eventually growing to about 4-5ft, 120-150cm) and more formal hedging. With its small glossy dark green leaves, the ability to grow in shady parts of the garden (even dry shade in mine) and the added benefit of its fragrant perfume, it’s a great structural plant for any garden and one I wouldn’t be without in my own!

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Spring has sprung at Great Dixter. I have just spent 4 glorious days volunteering at this heavenly garden in East Sussex. Heavenly, because no matter what time of year you visit, there are always plants to discover which will delight and knowledgable gardeners who will happily identify these wonderful plants for you. It’s slightly overwhelming to know where to start, but here are some of the plants and practices that I picked up on when I was there.

Great Dixter is gearing up for its first opening of the year and the gardens are putting on a great show. Hellebores ranging from pure whites to deep purples abound,

and Snowdrops (Galanthus), in many shapes and sizes, (and available from the Great Dixter Nursery!) are carpeting the ground in many of the borders.

Together, they make sumptuous combinations.

Tucked away in the shadows of a Fatsia japonica was a Pachyphragma macrophyllum (above) who’s purest white flowers shone out from the shade. This is certainly a plant I will seek out to plant in shadier gardens and is available from, amongst others, Beth Chatto’s nursery in Essex (who offer mail order) and Beeches Nursery in Suffolk.

Crocuses glowing in the sun, and seen en masse in the fields of Great Dixter, really seem to capture the spirit of the place.

Cardimine quinquefolia, above, and appearing in many areas of the gardens at this time of year, is altogether a much more delicate affair and a fantastic companion to a purple Hellbore or a dark-leaved Bergenia.

Add the vibrant green of the flower heads of a Euphobia foetidus, E.robbiae or E.wulfenii (above), and you can really create a very lively spring grouping indeed.

Mahonia japonica is not just a pretty face. It’s vibrant architectural form is also accompanied by the sweetest of scents, akin to that of Lily of the valley. If your Mahonia is looking rather top heavy and ‘leggy’ then wait for the flowers and berries to finish then cut right back down to a few buds above ground level, and it will grow back nice and bushy from where you pruned to.

James is thinning out a black bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra) so that the stems will become see-through and have more of an impact. Here’s a before pic.

And an after pic.

Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ still has an impact with its upright form throughout the coldest months.

And Yew hedging and topiary play an important role in the garden, giving structure and height to the borders in winter and providing a contrasting background to the perennial plants throughout the rest of the year.

(more…)

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