Designer Plant - January 2018

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Designer Plant - January 2018

08 January 2018


A lot of newspapers and magazines have a gardening section which will include a ‘plant of the month’ article. These are often dedicated to flowering herbaceous plants that, for those few weeks, provide a stunning display of colour or fragrance, but for the other 11 months of the year have no aesthetic or practical merit.


As a professional Garden Designer, the majority of the plants I use provide more than a simple short term display of flowering colour, particularly where space is limited. I need plants to be hardy, low maintenance and have good longevity.  


My ‘Designer Plant’ of the Month for January 2015 is fantastic evergreen shrub called: Sarcococca confusa (common names: Sweet Box, Christmas Box).


There are various types of Sarcococca commonly available, from the ‘confusa’ which is a larger shrub, up to roughly 2m (over 6ft) in height, to the more compact ‘humilis’ which reaches roughly 60cm (2ft). The fairly dense, glossy, dark green oval leaves are present throughout the year meaning that the shrub is great for providing some structure and substance to a border, particularly when the perennial plants have died down in the winter.


Like its cousin Buxus Sempervirens (or Box), one of its key virtues is that it will grow well in full shade and is happy in most soils. It is a very hardy shrub which can deal with a fair amount of abuse: wind, drought and even pollution. Also, as it is fairly slow growing it can be largely left to its own devices, with minimal pruning for shaping purposes.


However, it is this time of year Sarcococca really shines. Throughout the winter the small, cream, tufted flowers release an intoxicatingly strong sweet vanilla fragrance. If placed by a kitchen door or next to a pathway, visitors will get a waft of scent every time they pass by.  The flowers are followed by an abundance of attractive dark purple spherical berries, which provide an additional decorative dimension in early spring.


Sarcococca is a good, strong evergreen shrub which can deal with a difficult shady corner and provides real winter interest in the form of an enticing sweet fragrance. In my mind, Sarcococca should have a place in any garden.






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