Generously scented and generously proportioned

The subtly-toned wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox) is one of the most useful winter shrubs, producing almost translucent antique-yellow flowers warmed by a dash of blood-red. However this shrub needs a great deal of space and good light, taking up a 2m spread. Given both it will shine, although it has one bad habit. It's late to drop its foliage so if it's still clinging to a few last leaves pull them away gently so that the flowers, which look like ragged tutus on close inspection, can be seen to full advantage. This won't do any harm.

Being a Chinese shrub this needs summer moisture, so good soil is a necessity. Don't let size put you off either, for this twiggy winter shrub is one of the best for cut flowers. A few stems will scent a large room, but do try to give it a sheltered position because the gentle flowers can get damaged and browned by hard weather.