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Gardener's notebook: the best shrubs with sweet-smelling flowers for your London garden in winter

 (Wildfeuer / Wikimedia Commons)
(Wildfeuer / Wikimedia Commons)

As the days start to grow a bit longer, keep an eye — and a nose — out for eager shrubs jumping into action, with brightly coloured flowers and heavy scent that carries far on the winter air.

It’s a good idea to have a few of these in your London garden to add some cheery perfume at this relatively barren time of year.

Here are five of the best.

Witch Hazel

The golden flowers of the witch hazel (Laura Ockel / Unsplash)
The golden flowers of the witch hazel (Laura Ockel / Unsplash)

Witch hazels have exciting flowers — clusters of four delicate threads of golden yellow petals radiate out from a central burgundy bud.

They emerge all along the stem and carry just the right amount of scent. The trees are slow growing, making them perfect for a smaller London garden.

Winter Jasmine

The yellow flowers of winter jasmine punch above their weight (AnRo0002 / Wikimedia Commons)
The yellow flowers of winter jasmine punch above their weight (AnRo0002 / Wikimedia Commons)

Winter jasmine packs a punch in both its flowers and scent. It is a climber, and as such can be trained against a wall, fence or balcony railing.

In London it tends to be semi-evergreen, looking good all year with dark stems and new leaves that follow the flowers.

Daphne

Daphne are temperamental but their purple flowers smell amaing (Ian Sae / Wikimedia Commons)
Daphne are temperamental but their purple flowers smell amaing (Ian Sae / Wikimedia Commons)

These flowers range from mauve to magenta and they smell incredible.

They are temperamental and slow to grow, so find the biggest specimen you can afford when looking. Most sought after for scent and colour, with slightly blowsy flowers, is Daphne bholua.

Viburnum

Don't dismiss Viburnum just because you see it around the supermarket car park (Famartin / Wikimedia Commons)
Don't dismiss Viburnum just because you see it around the supermarket car park (Famartin / Wikimedia Commons)

These shrubs have a bit of a bad reputation for being car park plants as they tend to be found planted around suburban supermarkets.

I would like to elevate them from this status because at this time of year many produce pompoms of fantastic scent.

Some do need space, but you won’t go far wrong with Viburnum farreri, which stays under two metres tall.

Wintersweet

Wintersweet can grow very big but its smell will transport you (Gwa Kang / Pixabay)
Wintersweet can grow very big but its smell will transport you (Gwa Kang / Pixabay)

I smelt my first wintersweet plant this year and it transported me forward in time to April.

It is a bit naughty for me to add this one to the list, as it is a big shrub that would have no problem filling a typical London garden all on its own.

If you do have space, go and buy one.

Of all the winter shrubs above, this one might just be my favourite.