Discover articles on garden design, seasonal planting tips for your garden and other news and views from Gillian Goodson Designs.

The power of scent

Deliciously scented white flowers and glossy black berries of  Sarcococca confusa (Gillian Goodson Designs)

Deliciously scented white flowers and glossy black berries of Sarcococca confusa (Gillian Goodson Designs)

It’s a brand new year so raise that bar! Who wants to be average – set new goals; go forth and conquer. You are never too old to start afresh so do something that challenges, stretches and excites you. The garden can also look a little flat at this time of year so let us too look at reinvigorating it. Consider appealing to the transcendent power of scent: such strong evocations that can at times beam you back to childhood in a click.

An excellent choice for partial to deep shade and flowering from December through to March is Sarcococca confusa (sweet box). A very reliable evergreen shrub (up to 2m) with deeply scented white flowers, which are followed by glossy black berries. Whether used as an informal hedge or stand-alone shrub, position it near a path where its scent can delight and tickle those olfactory glands.

Popular for indoor flower arrangements, the twiggy branches of Chimonanthus praecox (wintersweet) are aburst with strongly spice-scented, intriguing yellow flowers this month. It prefers full sun and can be planted as a wall shrub. It also makes a great hanger for late-flowering clematis.

Once seen and not easily forgotten is another sweetly scented beauty, Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’ (witch hazel). This time for full sun to partial shade, with vibrant coppery-orange, intriguing spider-like flowers (up to 2.5cm wide) on bare stems (up to 4m). Stunning captured in the winter sun against a halcyon-blue sky from January to February.

The cream flowers of evergreen Clematis cirrhosa var. purpurascens ‘Freckles’ are deliciously peppered with reddish-brown pinprick-sized spots against glossy green leaves. Let it climb and meander over a pergola or arch where its bell-shaped heads can be best admired from below. For an extra layer of interest, all can be underplanted with drifts of hellebores, snowdrops and cyclamens to create a ripple effect.

Don’t forget to feed and put fresh water out for birds, cut ornamental grasses, check newly planted trees and shrubs and firm back in if lifted by frost, and prune established ones. Sow sweet peas under cover, aerate lawns to improve drainage and continue to harvest leeks; plant bare-root roses and winter prune wisteria while dormant.

Dazzle and warm those around you with your newfound glow. Don’t be a deflated balloon on a blue-sky day. Chase your dreams and fly…!