I didn’t inherit any fragrant plants when I took on my garden and I’ll admit scent hasn’t been given enough priority when I’ve been out plant buying. My tastes and ideas have changed from the fairly inexperienced gardener I was eight years ago and I’ve learnt a huge amount in that time, not just about plants but also my own tastes and the type of garden I want to create. Up until we moved here I had gardened mainly in pots to accommodate our frequent moves and the fact that we were renting. Container gardening was a brilliant way to assuage my need to grow, but it’s quite a different discipline to growing in soil and planting with a sense of permanence. Many of my ideas now are driven by my love of cutting plant material to bring indoors to fill vases, and scent is playing an increasing role in these choices. Along with Sue at Backlane Notebook I’m hoping that a ‘Scent in the Garden’ meme will encourage a focus on scented plants, will make me look at this extra dimension to my garden and will uncover some fantastically fragrant plants over the coming months.
For the February instalment of the ‘Scent in the Garden’ I have both Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ and Viburnum tinus flowering, as they have been since the end of November. The freezing temperatures haven’t been enough to discourage the winter-flowering honeysuckle from blooming. It has a tendency in very cold weather to retreat and withhold new flowers until the weather warms up. A few stems have provided a lovely addition to some stunning Cornish scented narcissi, which are a far superior Valentine’s Day gift than any red rose.
As for new appearances, there’s sarcococca, or winter box, which smells fabulous. It was just coming into flower in mid-January, but now it is in full bloom. It’s planted by the path which leads from the gate to the front door, so wafts of scent fill the air as you pass by. It’s a relatively new addition to the garden at just two years old and it is still quite small, so at the moment the air needs to be still and relatively warm for the fragrance to come to the attention of your nostrils, otherwise you need to bend down. A garden in the village has two sarcococca plants about a metre high which I covet. They are currently pumping out their heady perfume which means you can smell them well before they come into sight. One day that will be the scene in my own front garden.
In terms of scent, one of the biggest revelations for me in recent years has been the discovery that certain varieties of snowdrops are deliciously fragrant. Most of the snowdrops in my garden are the common snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis. It’s a great variety – easy to come by, fairly inexpensive and it bulks up readily to form good-sized clumps, the one thing it lacks is scent. I had heard of snowdrops which smelt of honey, but it was only this year, when I attended a talk by the author and snowdrop connoisseur Naomi Slade, that I had the opportunity to sniff a selection of snowdrops. Naomi had brought with her a collection of snowdrops in pots to illustrate the different forms – those with short, strap-like leaves, flowers with layers of petals like a ballerina’s tutu and tall-stemmed blooms with large, nodding heads. As the pots were passed around I smelt each one and made a note of those with the surprisingly potent perfume. ‘S. Arnott’ was the variety which stood out and it immediately went to the top of my must-have plant list.
I probably shouldn’t be making plant purchases until we’re settled in a new garden and I was about to resist the temptation of the plant stand at a recent visit to Colesbourne (more of which in a later post) when Wellyman encouraged me to make a cheeky purchase. He can be quite a persuasive influence when it comes to plant nurseries, but, to be honest, it doesn’t take much to break down my resistance. So here is the latest addition to the scented garden. It’s an exquisite flower and hopefully one day, in the not too distant future, I’ll have enough of clumps of ‘S. Arnott’ so I can pick a few tiny nosegays of snowdrops to bring indoors.
If you’d like to join in with ‘Scent in the Garden’ just post about what’s perfuming the air in your garden/growing space and leave a comment here or at Sue’s blog Backlane Notebook with a link to your post.