Being a gardener in winter is quite a privilege and a lark. For sure, there are mornings when you think your fingers will turn black from frost bite, or afternoons when you count down the minutes until you can get home to change your rainsoaked and filthy clothes. But then there are days like today when the sun shines, albeit weakly, and the fragrance of the winter flowers floats in the gentle breeze and reminds you of the times you have caught that scent before.
Scented plants that are flowering in the gardens I care for at the moment are many and varied. In one garden, parts of the birch wood have been colonised by the ground hugging violet. Viola odorata flowers come in different shades of purple and there are white varieties as well. I never have the time to pick them, but they make a great little bunch for a small vase. If there are children within earshot, I usually ask them to pick me some, their fingers being better suited to picking the filament-like stems, on which these symmetrical flowers grow.
Other wonderful scented plants for winter are sweet daphne (Daphne odora), which everyone knows. Maybe less well known, but still fairly widely grown are the native daphne, once known as Eriostemon myoporoides and now called Philoteca myoporoides. Like daphne their flowers are white with a hint of pink on the outside of the petals, and they have sweet scent, although I would say quite different to the exotic daphne.
I am reluctant to use jonquils in planting plans as once you have them, you will have them forever (I have been trying in vain for years to vanquish a clump of scrambled egg yellow jonquils from one of my beds and no matter how many times I claim to have dug up all the bulbs, there are always some left behind). However, if you have a garden that doesn’t already have some, they will grow well in a pot and have a great winter scent in the garden.
There are so many more scented plants, but the last one I will mention is Lonicera fragrantissima, the winter honeysuckle. The small clear cream flowers are small but the scent is large, a spicy lemony version that would be familiar to lovers of the spring and summer flowering varieties. I don’t often see it about, but it is on my wish list for must have plants.