1 October 2014 - 12:00am

Winter scent

Now the days are getting shorter, time in the garden is more precious, especially if you are out at work all day. Sitting among the flowers or under a tree in a favourite spot is a lovely, relaxing way to end the day so it’s worth doing a bit of planning. Scent is a big consideration. A waft of something nice and smelly in the evening is fabulous with a glass or a cup of something recuperative. It’s easy in the spring and summer when there are roses, honeysuckle and stocks; we are spoilt for choice, but what about the colder months? Here’s a few suggestions: Several of the Virburnums have gorgeous scents. There is a winter flowering one V. bonantense with little pink flowers that smell of almonds. In spring V. judii comes into its own, one of the best perfumes of all in my humble opinion, fills the whole garden. Daffodils can be very fragrant, but be careful. Some smell a bit musky to me, like old, damp socks or the dog after he’s jumped in a muddy ditch. But many folk do like the scent; look out for bulbs with ‘jonquil’ in the title. The best early bulb for scent I think are hyacinths. If you get one in a pot you can pop it in the garden after and it will flower year after year. They come smaller but are none the worse for that; white shows up best in the evening. If you plant up a pot of polyanthus and some bulbs now and put them by your favourite spot outside, you will have something to keep your nose and eyes happy for a long while. Daphnes (see picture) can look a bit boring for much of the year, but they are unrivalled for really early scent, it is almost overpowering. Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Possett’ is easy to find in garden centres. Her buds are pink, opening to almost white, but there are other varieties equally lovely. Daphnes are usually small shrubs, so easy to find space for but they are a little tender so find her a bit of shelter please. Mahonia is dead easy, will stand shade and neglect and flowers spectacularly in sunny yellow that smell of lily of the valley. Winter flowering and evergreen, it looks a bit like a holly and makes a big shrub if you don’t prune it and eventually ends up big even if you do. We have one in a woodland setting here at Charnwood, it looks perfect. Seating and lighting also need to be planned for. Lighting can be expensive, but you can always pop a night light in a jam jar. Space for a seat in a spot that picks up the evening sun is best, and that’s not necessarily where you might want it in the summer when you might roast. If, like me, you work hard to keep your garden looking good, it’s worth extending the time you can enjoy it. We’ve been known to have a barbeque with our coats on in November, such is our love of being in the garden all year round!