These plants are all winners of the Award of Garden Merit, our seal of approval that the plant performs reliably in the garden. Numbers at the end of each entry refer to RHS hardiness ratings.
Camellia sasanqua ‘Narumigata’ is a stylish camellia with glossy evergreen foliage but its glory is in its single flowers which are about 10cm (4in) across, pure white with pink tinged edges. The flowers are scented and open from late autumn and continue through winter. It is as hardy as other camellias, but the flowers appreciate the protection of a sunny fence or wall. 2m (6ft6in). H4.
Sweetest scent of all
Wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox 'Luteus') is a plant that’s perfectly hardy in the open garden, but which requires the extra summer warmth of a fence or wall to ripen its shoots and so ensure that the buds for its winter flowers develop well. Unlike other varieties, the pale yellow flowers are pure in colour and not marked in red and there is a sweet scent. Prune after flowering if necessary. 2.5m (8ft). H4.
A fragrant climber
Clematis cirrhosa var. purpurascens ‘Freckles’ This pretty speckled form of an evergreen Mediterranean clematis has dainty leaves, often developing bronze tones in the coldest months. The dark colouring is an ideal foil for the strongly scented, creamy yellow flowers, boldly spotted in dark red, which are carried through the winter. Enjoys a sunny site, prune after flowering if needed. 2.5m (8ft). H4.
Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’ For shady rather than sunny walls, this selection of a familiar dependable evergreen with leathery dark green foliage makes a good background for summer flowers. In midwinter, though, enjoy its main feature: it is festooned with greyish catkins up to 20cm (8in) long – twice as long as the original species – creating an unforgettable effect. 3m (10ft). H4.
The winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) is a plant that even most non-gardeners know, such is its toughness, and the dependability with which its yellow flowers survive anything the season can fling at them. When cut for the house the flower stems may root in the water. Strong growing, but easily restricted by pruning after flowering. 2.5m (8ft). H5.
Lonicera × purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’ is a plant which does not require the protection of a wall or fence, but flowers more prolifically and its scent is less easily dispersed when grown in a sheltered position. This is a shrubby form, not a climber, with strongly scented creamy flowers from December into spring, and is the most prolific of the fragrant winter honeysuckles. 2m (6ft6). H5.
Great for bees
Mahonia × media ‘Winter Sun’ is another plant that is perfectly happy in the open garden, but which benefits from being planted against a house wall where its rich fragrance – stronger than most mahonias – will not waft away on the chilly breeze. The bold evergreen leaves, like opposite rows of holly leaves, make a fine background for the clusters of upright yellow flower spikes. 3m (10ft). H4.
Prunus mume ‘Beni-chidori’ is the ideal small tree to grow on a wall which will provide a little frost protection for the winter and spring flowers. This is a sparse yet attractive tree that does not cast dense shade so many other plants will thrive beneath it. In winter and early spring its dark branches are lined with double, rich pink flowers with a powerful almond scent. 4m (13ft). H5.
The florists’ mimosa, Acacia dealbata, is a superb evergreen for a sunny wall with prettily divided, silvery green foliage. From midwinter into spring, the fluffy flowerheads make billowing sprays with a lovely sweet scent. It may be die back in the most ferocious winters but usually shoots again, and can be pruned after flowering to restrict its size. 4m (13ft) or more. H2.
Azara serrata is a rarely-seen evergreen shrub for a sunny site with glossy foliage that makes a good host for climbers. The smart leaves show off its fragrant yellow puffball flowers very effectively. Its branching habit and dense cover of evergreen leaves makes this a good shrub for nesting birds. Probably the hardiest of all azaras. Height to 2.5m (8ft), hardiness rating H4.