Give yourself a good reason to be led up the garden path by planting a fragrant winter-flowering shrub at the far end of your plot. The spicy scents of exotic witch hazels are worth the trek, and the showy blooms on bare twigs resemble chenille spiders. Two of the finest are coral-flowered Jelena and deep red Diane.
Viburnum bodnantense Dawn is a can’t-kill shrub that makes another great winter choice. The large pink flowers smell of honey and almonds, and keep on coming from late autumn until spring.
RICH SCENT AND PRETTY FRUIT
Mahonia is the perfect shrub to plant by the front door, or as a focal point in ground or container. It thrives in shady London gardens. Large cartwheels of evergreen leaf sprays give mahonias a handsome architectural presence all year round, and from early winter, they produce extravagant, rich yellow flower sprays that smell just like lily of the valley. As a bonus, the flowers are followed by bunches of navy blue berries that birds adore. Winter Sun is the compact variety for small spaces.
Honeysuckle’s reputation for wonderful scent is upheld with the winter version, shrubby honeysuckle Lonicera purpusii. Winter Beauty is the garden-friendly variety to look for, and will give you the sweetest scent from clusters of creamy flowers on the bare branches which can be clipped to give you jugfuls of scented garden flower stems. With just green leaves in summer, it needs to be planted as part of a crowd scene in the border.
Park something deliciously fragrant right by the patio or terrace. Christmas Box is a great choice for a small garden. It forms a compact evergreen dome that from late winter is covered with sprays of tufted white flowers. You don’t need to bend down to smell the luscious honey scent because it is carried on the air.
Just a few twigs of wintersweet, Chimonanthus praecox, will scent a whole room with spicy lemon perfume, so it can be forgiven for being slow to bloom after planting, and being a little ungainly. The gorgeous waxy, butter-yellow flowers stud the bare branches from January.
DON’T FORGET DAPHNE
Follow your nose to the garden centre for Daphne odora Aureomarginata, the popular evergreen shrub with pointed, bright green leaves that are finely edged in lemon, and rounded soft pink or white winter blooms that have an exceptionally full-bodied, fruity perfume.
Just right for a pot on the patio or terrace table, compact Daphne A favours moist soil or compost, a spot in the sun or light shade, and merits the extra attention.
The most desirable daphne however, is the fabulous and costly Jacqueline Postill, which is an investment shrub for a sheltered, sunny spot or front-door porch, where you can revel in highly fragrant, deep pink flowers from late December.
Given a blast of winter sunshine, the volatile oils of lavender and rosemary foliage are just as potent as in high summer. Large pots on the patio of culinary Mediterranean herbs that also include sage and thyme — try lemon thyme for a sharp citrus punch — are lovely for a soothing aromatherapy hit when stroked, and make great container evergreens that can withstand prolonged weather extremes.
Prostrate rosemary looks especially good if you leave it to tumble down the sides of a tall container or window box, and in a sunny spot it will produce a profusion of blue blossom that will keep going until spring.