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AGM plants have been through a rigorous trial and assessment programme. They are:
A surprising range of plants not only flower in winter but bring the whole garden alive with their scents, especially on days when the sun peeps through, says plantsman Graham Rice
Most of us now appreciate that we can turn winter in the garden from a bleak emptiness – well, not into a riot of colour, exactly, but we can certainly make it a pleasure to step out of the door and look around. But we can also add a whole new layer of enjoyment to the winter garden with fragrance.
You’ll enjoy all ten of these RHS Award of Garden Merit winners for the colour and their fragrance. It pays to give them all a cosy, sheltered situation to bring out the best of their scent.
H1 - H7 indicated the new hardiness ratings
Full details of hardiness ratings (510kB pdf)
Isn’t this a treasure? Pure white flowers shading to gold in the throat with the vivid contrast of orange-red anthers. “The best white and orange spring crocus I know,” said the great plantsman E. A. Bowles who raised it.
Flowers from January, and best grown in a pot of gritty compost and set on a windowsill by the door. 7.5cm (3in). H5.
Would you swap red berries for unusually fragrant flowers? Absolutely. The exceptionally large cone-shaped clusters of flowers are green at first then mature to cream; they open over a long season in late winter and spring with the modestly sized evergreen plants producing a surprisingly powerful scent – but no fruits. Very presentable aromatic foliage. Happy in shade. Height to 1m (3ft). H5.
An essential winter evergreen, the neat glossy pointed foliage on more or less upright growth almost hides the small creamy flowers that line the stems - but the exceptional fragrance gives them away.
Performing as soon as the sun peeps out on even the iciest days, it thrives in sun or partial shade and most soils. Black berries follow the flowers. Height to 90cm (3ft). H5.
From early December even into April, this prolific winter bush honeysuckle opens its creamy flowers on bare stems. An adaptable and tolerant plant for sun or a little shade, its out-of-flower look is unremarkable but it makes a good host for a summer-flowering Viticella clematis.
The fragrance of its winter flowers however, is exceptional, and it makes a valuable addition to winter bouquets. Height to 1.8m (6ft). H5.
The richest in colour of these indispensible winter irises, the strongly primrose scented, rich violet blue flowers open from November to February amongst slender evergreen foliage.
There is a lively, gold-centred white flash on three of the petals. Best in well-drained soil at the foot of a sunny wall, tidy up the leaves before flowering and protect from slugs. Height to 30cm (1ft). H5.
Large, black-eyed, very faintly blue tinged, upward facing white flowers feature an appealing grey stripe through the back of each petal and have a strong honey scent.
Good in pots or in a sunny site for late winter and spring, and also good for cutting. The greyish foliage smells of garlic when crushed – so don’t crush it! Height to 18cm (7in). H4.
Surprisingly, perhaps, many witch hazels provide us with little or no scent - so depriving us of one of winter’s special pleasures.
However, the rich orange flowers of ‘Vesna’, redder at the base of the petals, feature an unusually strong scent from December through to March – not to mention fiery autumn leaf colour. Its rather upright habit suits small gardens. Height to 3m (10ft). H5.
A few snowdrops are noted for their special fragrance, and the honey scent of ‘Magnet’ is at its most noticeable as the outer petals rise to the horizontal on sunny days.
A most elegant snowdrop, the large flowers have an inverted green 'V' on the inner petals, hang on distinctive long, arching stems and tremble in the slightest breeze. Height to 20cm (8in). H5.
Trained against a south or west facing wall, where the sun-ripened shoots will bloom most prolifically, the sweet scent of the clusters of unmarked yellow flowers wafts around the garden in late winter.
The foliage is aromatic, too. Prune immediately after flowering for the best show and the most concentrated perfume. Appreciates well-drained soil, and is happy on chalk. Height to 2.4m (8ft). H4.
My pick of a trio of AGM varieties of the wonderful V. × bodnantense (the others are ‘Charles Lamont’ and ‘Dawn’), the pink buds open to white flowers over a remarkably long period, sometimes starting as early as October and continuing to April.
Happy in most fertile soils in sun, protection from icy winds is helpful. Prune, if necessary, by removing whole branches. Height to 3m (10ft). H6.
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Join the RHS today and get 12 months for the price of 9