December: heaven scent

It would be easy to write December off as a month when everything in the garden is dead and there is nothing to look forward to.

On the contrary: some of the best scents I know, emerge in the winter months. One only has to go around the winter gardens of Mottisfont Abbey or Hilliers Arboretum to realise how many winter offerings there are.

For example, take the tough Mahonia species, noted not just for the powerful scent but the strong yellow pinnacles of flowers. Lonicera fragrantissima is a member of the honeysuckle family: it will give off a delicious, recognizable honeysuckle scent in the coming months.

Chimonanthus praecox is a bit of a mouthful, but the common name, wintersweet, gives it all away: fragrant yellow flowers emerge on stems to brighten up even the dullest day. Finally, there is my personal favorite, the Sarcococca group: commonly referred to as winter box, this little evergreen plant packs a punch when it comes to giving off the most delicious fragrance. It is also an incredibly useful plant as it will thrive in heavy shade and in the dullest corners. A few sprigs of this on your table, I dare say, will surprise and delight anyone without the most chronic of winter hayfever!

The plants above list just the scents that can be found: wait until you see the colours!

There are plenty of things to enjoy, but also plenty of things to do that can enhance your garden this month:

  • The birdlife will be scratching around for food: fill up your winter feeders making sure, as best as you can, that they are squirrel proof. Once the birds have located your feeders, they should return again and again.

  • Be careful when you are tidying up a shed or having a bonfire: all sorts of creatures may be making their homes for the winter there.

  • A stack of logs building materials (especially clay tiles and pipes) offer overwintering bugs a hotel for the cold months!

  • Birches and Japanese maples are best pruned in December, as are edible grape vines: they are less likely to bleed sap.

  • Bare root trees and shrubs can be planted now. This is a very economical way of establishing hedges, especially as wildlife boundaries.

  • With the chances of high winds growing more likely, it is sensible to ensure that all trees are properly tethered and climbers and cut back and tied in.

  • Protect your outdoor taps from frost by covering them with hessian or bubble wrap: it is the expansion of the water when it turns to ice that bursts a pipe.

  • A log or a football in a pond will prevent the total coverage of ice during a frozen spell. Ensure the log or football can be reached and removed without you having to undertake any life-threatening stretches!

    Time is often short this month: when you do get a moment, why not take a mini tour to savor those many sweet smelling flowers? To put simply, I challenge you to find in anything so heavenly scented in the shops! On that noteā€¦