Monday, January 12, 2009

Chimonanthus praecox backlit by late afternoon winter sun

Many of the most fragrant shrubs in the garden flower between fall and early spring. Chimonanthus praecox, Wintersweet, is only one of a handful of olfactory delights of the season. Still to come: Prunus mume, Lonicera fragrantissima, Daphne odora, and a number of Viburnums starting with x 'Dawn'. Already past are Osmanthus heterophyllus, O. x fortunei, Eleagnus spp. cvs., and Hamamelis virginiana.

I first met Chimonanthus in the winter planting at Brookside Gardens sometime in the 1970s. It has taken a long time to get a small foothold in the garden center trade. Partly because it flowers here in the Washington area from sometime in late December through late winter when there are few customers in nurseries. Although the flowers in the picture are pleasantly attractive, they are small and the plant itself is large, gawky, and not especially appealing. That doesn't mean that we can't grow it; it just means that we need to think about where we put it. It has to go where we can smell it but where we don't have to look at it! It can be around a corner, in a hedgerow, below a porch or deck...there are a variety of good places. I often (in designs) make it the first shrub around the corner of the house on the least utilized side (beside the garage?). Anyway, put it somewhere because once you smell this plant you will have to have it! The good news is that it is tough and once established, not susceptible to pests, diseases, or drought. While not a native, it rarely seeds and has no invasive tendencies.

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