Winter blooms promise to be most fragrant for years
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Royal Horticultural Society says last summer’s heatwave and the mild winter mean floral scents are extra potent.
Gardeners who love floral scents are in for a treat this month, which is shaping up to be one of the most fragrant February’s in memory, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has said.
Seasonal flowers including witch hazel, winter-flowering viburnums, shrubby honeysuckles and Edgeworthia are blooming larger and more profusely as a result of last year’s hot, sunny summer and a lack of hard frosts this winter.
At Notcutts Garden Centres in Woodbridge, Suffolk, flowers such as Sarcococca, Daphne and Magnolia are delighting customers.
Plants compete for pollinators, and it is thought that winter-flowering plants flower at this time to avoid the competition they would face in summer.
The plants use scent, released on warm days when pollinating insects are most likely to be on the wing, to entice pollinators such as flies, as well as the few bees that are active in winter.
Some scents such as wintersweet may fade by the end of February, but others such as viburnum will continue into March.
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RHS chief horticulturist Guy Barter explained the phenomenon: “After a period of cold, the flowers are coming out in a rush with the warming air, and on warm days in particular the scent drifts over the gardens.
“In summer, scents are prolific and tend to mingle but as fewer plants are in flower in winter, you can distinguish the individual scents more easily.”
Plant buyer at Notcutts Garden Centres, Stuart Andrews, said: “It is a fantastic time to enjoy fragrance in the garden, with the long hot summer and mild winter producing a bumper season for scented blooms.
He added:“Our fragrant favourites at Notcutts this season are the Sarcococca, an evergreen shrub which bears beautifully scented flowers in winter, and Daphne which is ideally planted in a pot near a doorway or path where you can appreciate its sweet, intense perfume.
“Viburnum Bodnantense Dawn is another popular plant for its bright pink or white flowers with a powerful scent. The weather has also resulted in a bumper early season for flowering shrubs such as Camellia and Magnolia, which will be a riot of colour in the coming weeks.”
At the RHS’s Hyde Hall near Chelmsford in Essex, where a new winter garden opened this year, curator Robert Brett said the scents of the wintersweet (Chimonanthus), snowdrops and viburnum are the most remarkable he could remember.