January's Plant of the Month

Christmas box is a shrub every gardener should grow – preferably by a door or pathway so that the inconspicuous but sweetly fragrant flowers can be enjoyed in the depths of winter

Sarcococca confusaAt Rosemoor, we have planted them throughout the garden because they are reliably of such good value; happiest in a shady position and liking our acid clay soil. If you catch a wonderfully strong fragrance when visiting during winter, and you can’t see the source, it is likely to be Sarcococca confusa AGM.
 
It is a perfect evergreen for the small garden as it can be kept in check by regular trimming (after flowering) when it has filled the space you have allocated for it (but don’t hard prune). The creamy-white flowers are followed by spherical, glossy black fruit, which may persist until the following year, so that there are often berries and flowers at the same time.
 
This is a very versatile plant and the dark green glossy leaves will look good with almost anything. We have planted it with other evergreens for foliage contrast, such as Ilex, Mahonia and Rhododendron. Try combining with evergreen ferns such as Blechnum spicant AGM, as we have done in the Rock Gully. Deciduous ferns, for example Dryopteris affinis 'Cristata' AGM and Dryopteris dilatata 'Grandiceps', add more shapes and textures to the composition later in the spring.
 
When flowering has finished, it will form an excellent backdrop for later flowering plants. At Rosemoor we combine it with anything from grasses (elegant Chionochloa conspicua) to colourful perennials (deep pink autumn-flowering Anemone hupehensis var. japonica 'Pamina' and stunning Erythronium 'Harvington Snowgoose').
 
If you are tempted, you can find Sarcococca confusa at the Rosemoor Plant Centre along with lots of inspiration for plant combinations in your winter garden. Alternatively it's available to buy online through RHS Plants.

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