Winter jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum - a bit worn down by the ice storm, but still spreading its sunny fragrance in the cold.
Despite being lucky with not loosing power or having any other accidents due the snow and ice storms last week, I do feel a bit worn down by the weather... so to cheer me up, I decided to write a list of my favorite plants for the dark, chilly season.
I love scented plants, which shows in my list below. If choosing between two otherwise equally suited plants for a situation, I almost always pick the fragrant one of them. With their perfume, scented plants add dimension by offering pleasure for one more of our senses. Often, they conjure memories and feelings from days past. Sometimes, scents can be healing, like the heady, fresh smell of lavenders that has scientifically been proved to be calming (one of my favorites...). I mostly think of flowers when considering scented plants, but of course even whole plants can be aromatic, from the tiny herbs we use for cooking to the huge cedars and firs of the northern hemisphere and towering Eucalyptus trees of the southern.
Luckily, the gardening year of the Pacific Northwest is never without something fragrant in season, even if the leaden skies and slushy snow of mid winter can otherwise be quite oppressing to one's mood. As a remedy, here are some of my favorite, scented "spirit lifters" for the season, all amazing plants to be included in any garden at the colder latitudes.
Winter honeysuckle, Lonicera standishii from China, has the same kind of fresh honey scent as its summer flowering relatives.**
Have I worn down you with my witch-hazels yet? Hamamelis x intermedia 'Winter beauty' is gently lemon scented with deep apricot glow.
Sarcococcas have such modest, little flowers, but their perfume carries far with the winter winds. They flower from December to February, and are excellent near entrances with their fragrance and glossy evergreen leaves.
The delicate scent of snowdrops... do I need to say more?
Viburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn'; I love it in theory, but in practice its pink flowers often become mottled with brown after the slightest touch of snow, which always looks dull. Their heady perfume lingers around from the darkest November to late February.
Many cyclamen are slightly scented, but you need to go down on your knees to detect it. Lovely combination here with the cinnamon bark of a Stewartia monadelpha.
The waxy flowers of Chimonanthus praecox have a strong, spicy scent that reminds me of some of the Actaeas. Describing scents is such an undeveloped area, the only tool available seems to be comparing them to something that is more well-known...*
Daphnes are well-known for their highly scented winter flowers, but they are sensitive to cold and snow. Mine have turned yellow after the ice storm and will probably loose their leaves in the coming weeks. Luckily, they usually recover, but look pretty shaggy until the new leaves develop.