Witchhazel - A bewitching favourite
Gardening expert Sue Beesley advises Living Edge readers on the priorities for December
It’s a brave plant that puts on its finest show in December, but those that do so use strong, heavenly sweet scents to ensure that any insects about will find them from far afield. Flowers in December are treasures anyway, but when these are fragrant they are almost priceless.
Sarcococca, or Christmas box is an unremarkable evergreen shrub for much of the year. But in December it flowers with the sweetest scented white flowers. Last year’s berries tend to turn red and black at the same time, so the whole plant comes to life. I keep one in a pot by the back door, pushing it into the shadows for most of the year and bringing it out to welcome me home on a chilly winter day.
Viburnum farreri is a real beauty, with heavy clusters of pink, scented flowers opening from late autumn into winter. It’s astonishingly showy for such a drab time of year. The lovely winter honeysuckle, Lonicera purpusii is another pretty winter shrub, often smothered with flower on the shortest day.
My personal favourite is the witchhazel. Although there are lots of red and orange flowered varieties around, I like the original pale yellow one, Hamamellis mollis, as I think this one has the sweetest scent, and the pale flowers glow against an evergreen or shady background. Perfect for an unobtrusive spot, it will surprise every year with its spidery flowers and heady, sweet scent. Cut a few sprigs just as the flowers open and take indoors for the perfect winter room fragrance.
Sue Beesley was runner-up in the BBC’s Gardener of the Decade and is the owner of Lodge Lane nursery and Bluebell Cottage Gardens in Dutton, Cheshire. Check out her website www.lodgelanenursery.co.uk