Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sweet smelling winter

This weekend has been a bright one here in Wairarapa, and it has been a great chance to get out and about in the garden.  Despite it being relatively cold, I was able to work in most of the garden beds without causing too much damage – wet weather, sodden soil and gardeners stamping all over the spoil leads to compacted soils and poor growth.
I took the chance to prune the few roses that I have around the garden, as they are showing signs of popping their leaf buds. I also cleaned up a lot of the perennials, some of which still had dead foliage from the autumn hanging on.  I was naughty – I really ought to have got onto this earlier as dead and rotting leaves look awful in the garden, and can harbour pests and diseases that are best banished from the garden.  I threw some extra compost on the soil surface too, to help keep the weed seed from germinating.
I went for a walk the other evening, and walking along a deserted country road in complete darkness I was surprised to small the sweet heady scent of wintersweet, Chimonathus praecox, wafting over from an unseen garden. This is a deciduous woody shrub with a slightly plain growth habit, and slightly coarse foliage, so it is not one that you would have in the most prominent sight in the garden.  When winter comes the plain theme continues, as this small tree (or large shrub) carries very insignificant flowers (usually – more anon) but what they lack in sight appeal they more than make up for with the most amazing heady scent.  There is a yellow form called ‘Lutea’ with slightly (and it is only slightly!) more coloured flowers, with the same spicy scent.
To be honest, although I absolutely love the scent of this shrub (and it shares part of its name with me) I have never planted it, as I do not like its scrappy growth, and would need to have a bigger garden before I found room for it.  But I am, delighted that my neighbours have a shrub in the garden, with branches that come across our fence, so I get to relish in its scent.
Although it is an element that is often forgotten about, a garden without scent would be a fairly sterile place, and I will always find room for a good range of highly fragrant plants.  I adore the clove spiciness of the various members of the Dianthus family, and love it when a border of pinks or carnations is in full flower, and I always have pots of Freesias for the patio near the back door.  One of the highlights of summer is the evening swim in the darkness, when the Lilium auratum is in bloom, the decadent scent enlivening the evening air.

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