Doorstep evergreens

In winter we often catch glimpses of the garden close to porches and doorways as we rush in and out. One evergreen that’s perfect close to the house is the highly scented sarcococca or Christmas box. These are members of the box family, but they come from Western China mainly and arrived here in 1908 after their black berries were collected. The most elegant of all, with ivory-white flowers and shiny rich green leaves, is Sarcococca confusa. It’s so called because when it was recorded it couldn’t be found in the same place and the botanist named it tongue in cheek. The lily-like fragrance wafts through the air on still winter days, so try to keep this in a sheltered position. It also does well in a container and is the best thing for hedonists to grow by their doorway.

It’s debatable which sarcococca is the most fragrant, because they all pack a powerful punch. S. hookeriana, a pink-flowered form with grey-green foliage, comes in several forms. Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna is the most heavily scented in my opinion, but the pink flowers are not as clean cut. Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna 'Purple Stem' produces willow-like stems in purple and it suckers although not aggressively so. 'Ghorepani', a new one from Nepal, has cream-white flowers and there’s also a hybrid called ‘Winter Gem’ which has larger leaves and pink and white flowers. These are winter essentials and the easiest of the fragrant winter-flowering plants to accommodate in your garden.