Sweet scents

Flowers are blooming bigger and more profusely, making it a most fragrant late winter/early spring

Daphne bholua Jacqueline Postill
Thanks to the hot, sunny summer and lack of hard frost, winter flowers including witch hazel, Edgeworthia, shrubby honeysuckles and winter-flowering viburnums are blooming in RHS Partner Gardens and releasing bursts of strong scent.   

John Rippin, Head Gardener at Bodnant Garden, says: “It’s amazing this year – the perfume from winter flowering shrubs such Daphne, Sarcococca (winter box) and Hamamelis (witch hazel) is incredible. They all seem to be flowering well and they’re enjoying the winter sunshine. The bulbs are looking incredible too – things like iris are out and putting on a wonderful display already.''

Mike Werkmeister, owner of East Lambrook Manor Gardens, Somerset, agrees: “The bees are particularly active as the weather has been so beautiful. The weather has been perfect for much of February, which is clearly the reason."

“The plants with the most fragrance in the garden here today are Sarcocca hookeriana var. humilis – I can't ever remember the fragrance so strong.”

Phil Smith, Head Gardener, Wollerton Old Hall Garden, Shropshire adds: “Shrubs such as Sarcococca confusa and Chimonanthus praecox have been incredibly fragrant, especially on warm afternoons.”

Chimonanthus praecox LuteuMatthew Hall, Head Gardener, Batsford Arboretum, Gloucestershire, says Batsford has looked spectacular since January. “We have the amazing scented flowers of Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill' and ‘Peter Smithers’. One of the most stunning has been Daphne 'Perfume Princess', the scent leads you to the plant! Chimonanthus praecox, Sarcoccoca and Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Glowing Embers’ have been stunning.”

Michelle Upchurch, at Felley Priory Gardens, Nottinghamshire, has also noticed the fragrance: “Here at Felley Priory we have noticed our Daphne collection seem to be more heavily scented this year: Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’, Daphne bholua ‘Peter Smithers’, Daphne odora ‘Geisha Girl’. Also our Chimonanthus fragrans has a more intense fragrance this year.”
Hamamelis intermedia 'Arnold Promise'
Andy Eddy, Head Gardener, Osterley Park & House, West London: “We have lots of fragrant shrubs in our Winter Garden including Lonicera purpusii – winter honeysuckle; Hamamelis ‘Arnold Promise’ – witch hazel; Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’; Sarcococca hookeriana and S. orientalis – winter box. 

Iain Crisp, Head Gardener, Dunrobin Castle Garden, in the Northern Highlands says that the snowdrops have also been affected by the short warm snap: “I’ve noticed the scent of snowdrops is particularly good this year. We are in the midst of the Scottish Snowdrop Festival.”
More scents to sniff at RHS Partner Gardens
Fullers Mill Garden, Suffolk
Sarcocca and Hamamelis

Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, Hampshire
Winter Garden

Dyffryn Gardens, South Wales
Viburnum and Sarcococca 

Mount Stuart Trust, Isle of Bute
Sarcococca hookeriana var. ‘Digyna’; Atherosperma moschatum; Lonicera × purpusii 'Winter Beauty'; Viburnum x bodnantense; Hamamelis; Daphne laureola.

Barnsdale Gardens
Sarcococca, Lonicera x purpusii, Viburnum bodnantense and V. farreri. 

Some scents such as wintersweet may fade by the end of February, but others like viburnum will continue into March. 
 

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