Three Honeysuckle blooms in front of dark background

Eleanor Clarke


5 Best Plants for Winter Perfume

We know that just a few flowers make a huge difference to a garden when the days are short, and if there’s therapeutic scent carried in the air, you’ve hit the jackpot. Prepare to meet a few of our favourites that deliver exactly that.

Honeysuckle bloom in front of a dark background

Winter honeysuckle (Lonicera x purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’)

At first sight you wouldn’t think this shrub belonged to the honeysuckle family. It’s not a climber and it flowers in winter. But if you look closely, you’ll see that the pure white flowers with their bright yellow anthers have a similar shape. The overall effect is a haze of cream, often covered in bees while it’s in flower, from December through to March, as those anthers are packed with pollen. The scent? Fresh, lemony and revitalising.

Eventual height and spread: 2m x 2m.

Grow in sun or semi shade.

Christmas box (Sarcococca confusa) blooms on a branch

Christmas box (Sarcococca confusa)

You might have found yourself drawn to Christmas box in a park or garden, where its powerful, vanilla-like scent carries impressively on the slightest of breezes. The name is a clue to its small, lustrous evergreen leaves, which are similar to box (Buxus). But this dense shrub has small white perfumed winter flowers and is super-easy to grow, being happy even in dry shade under deciduous trees. There are species with pink-tinged flowers or purple stems, others that are dwarf varieties ideal for pots or smaller spaces.

Eventual height and spread: 2m x 2m.

Grow in shade or semi shade.

Yellow Witch Hazel bloom in front of a blurry background

Witch hazel (Hamamelis)

These elegant plants are classed as small shrubs but we think of them as small trees really, the ideal size for urban gardens. The flowers pop dramatically from bare, spreading branches in mid-winter, in pale yellow, canary, burnt orange or coral, depending on the variety. But all have an unmistakeable rich, spicy clove-like scent and wonderfully weird clusters of slim, curling petals – like sea anemomes waving on the sea bed. A witch hazel makes a gorgeous focal-point shrub, underplanted with snowdrops and early narcissi. 

Eventual height and spread: 4m x 4m.

Grow in sun or semi shade.

Pink Daphne odora bloom in front of green leaves


Another group of shrubs that are brilliant for smaller gardens, daphnes are slow growing and compact, with the most intensely scented flowers in winter and early spring. Most are evergreen too. Particularly fabulous in winter is Daphne odora (the clue’s in the name), its purple-pink buds opening to pale pink, and the variegated version, Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’, similar but with gold-rimmed leaves and a richer pink flower. Both have a knockout lily-like perfume that travels unhindered in the winter air.

Eventual height and spread (Daphne odora): 1.5m x 1.5m

Grow in a sunny sheltered spot, set back from a south-facing wall perhaps

Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ blooms

Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’

A long, complicated name for a simply beautiful shrub, so we just call her ‘Dawn’. This is a viburnum that flowers (with gusto) on bare stems, like the witch hazels, but in sweet candy pink clusters of mini trumpets, more like the daphnes. The leaves follow on after. Like all of these winter-scented shrubs, plant it strategically where you’ll pass it every day and enjoy the uplifting scent to the max.

Eventual height and spead: 3m x 2m.

Grow in sun, towards the back of a border.


Remember, if we don’t have specific plants in stock, just come and ask one of the team. We’ll be happy to suggest an alternative or order it for you, if we can. 

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