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Scent in a garden can be wonderfully invigorating at the best of times; probably more so during the winter months as there’s not so many flowering plants to attract our attention. Fortunately, many winter flowering shrubs are scented, as this is nature’s way of helping attract the few insects out and about on a cold winter’s day to pollinate winter flowers.

The great news is that there’s a winter scented shrub for many different garden situations. So, here’s 10 shrubs with ‘knock your socks off’ scent appeal…

1. Lonicera x purpusii (winter flowering honeysuckle) ‘Winter Beauty’

Most people know the highly fragrant, summer flowering climbing honeysuckle, but did you know there is also a winter flowering honeysuckle that’s a shrub not a climber? There are several different cultivars, all with delightfully delicate perfumed creamy white flowers. Their stems tend to grow out widthways, as well as upwards so bear that in mind when positioning it in the border. They are quite slow growing and make a wonderful addition to the winter garden. It will also supply much needed pollen and nectar for pollinating insects at a time of year.

  • Flowers in winter
  • Fully hardy
  • Grows up to 2.5m tall
  • Moist but well-drained or well-drained soil
  • Full sun or partial shade
  • Exposed or sheltered
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2. Chimonanthus praecox (wintersweet)

This is one of those shrubs that you should buy when in flower, because young plants can take several years before they start to flower. However, it’s well worth the wait!  The delicate looking yellow flowers are purple tinted on the inside, with a spicy lemon scent. It’s a slow growing shrub, with flowers that appear before the leaves. The flowering stems are much loved by florists and bringing a cut stem into the house when they’re in flower will fill the room with wonderful scent.

  • Flowers in winter
  • Hardy
  • Grows up to 4m tall
  • Moist but well-drained or well-drained soil
  • Full sun
  • Sheltered
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3. Mahonia eurybracteata (Oregon grape) ‘Sweet Winter’

Mahonias are well known for their sweet-smelling, soft yellow flowers which appear in mid-autumn, lasting into the New Year. Many of them are tall, spiky shrubs, but this variety is unusual in that it only grows to a very neat 1m tall and wide making it perfect for small gardens. Another bonus is that its leaves aren’t spiky, so it’s perfect for planting near a path or in a container. The flowers are followed by blue-black berries for even more interest.

  • Flowers in winter
  • Hardy
  • Grows to 1m tall
  • Moist but well-drained soil
  • Partial shade
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4. Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna (sweet box)

Next is a nicely shaped, evergreen plant which provides year-round structure in the garden. It has small, shiny leaves, a nicely domed shape, and is one of the most highly scented winter shrubs. The flowers may be small, but they more than make up for their lack of size by the sheer intensity of the scent they give off. The flowers are perfect for pollinators and are followed by attractive dark purple berries.

  • Flowers in winter
  • Hardy
  • Grows to 1.5m tall
  • Moist but well-drained soil
  • Full shade or partial shade
  • Sheltered
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5. Coronilla valentina subsp. glauca (coronilla) ‘Citrina’

It’s ideal to plant short to medium size winter flowering shrubs near a path so that you can enjoy the scent as you walk past. Planting near the front door means you’ll be greeted with delightful fragrance when leaving and returning home. Coronilla is a wonderful choice for a spot in full sun. What’s more, the evergreen foliage provides structure all year round.

  • Flowers in winter
  • Hardy through most of the UK
  • Grows up to 90cm tall
  • Moist but well-drained or well-drained soil
  • Full sun
  • Sheltered
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6. Daphne bholua (daphne) ‘Limpsfield’

If your garden’s shady, daphne is another evergreen plant that’s great for planting by the side of a path or front door that tolerates shade. They are hardy shrubs, renowned for their scent and there are several different types to choose from. ‘Limpsfield’ is a semi-evergreen shrub which also starts to flower in late winter producing many heavily scented pretty, purple-pink flowers.

  • Flowers in winter
  • Hardy through most the UK
  • Grows up to 2.5m tall
  • Moist but well-drained or well-drained soil
  • Full sun or partial shade
  • Sheltered
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7. Viburnum x bodnantense (arrowwood) ‘Dawn’

If you have space in the garden, try to include taller shrubs that can be placed at the back of the border to give added layered interest. Viburnums are generally undemanding shrubs and ‘Dawn’ has the added advantage of producing a mass of soft pink, highly scented flowers during the winter months. The flowers appear on bare stems with the leaves appearing in spring just as the flowers start to fade.

  • Flowers in winter
  • Fully hardy
  • Grows up to 2.5m tall
  • Moist but well-drained or well-drained soil
  • Full sun or partial shade
  • Exposed or sheltered
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8. Edgeworthia chrysantha (paperbush) ‘Grandiflora’

This unusual medium size shrub is well worth seeking out. Listed in the same family as daphne, it also has an intensely sweet heady scent, which smells similar to gardenia but a little spicier. Often planted in woodland borders, it produces bright yellow flowers before the leaves, giving both winter scent and colour. The flowers are quite large at around 5cm in diameter, first appearing in the autumn as tightly curled cream colour flower heads before suddenly popping open around February. Interestingly, the plant gets its common name from the fact that, in Japan, its bark is used to make paper used in the production of bank notes!

  • Flowers in winter
  • Hardy through most of the UK
  • Grows to 1.5m tall
  • Moist but well-drained soil
  • Partial shade
  • Sheltered
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9. Hamamelis x intermedia (witch hazel) ‘Orange Beauty’

These slow growing shrubs have great autumn leaf colour ranging from yellow to deepest orange. Then, between February and March, they reward you with bursts of gorgeous orange and red flowers, a time of the year when we all welcome a bit of cheer.

  • Flowers in winter
  • Hardy
  • Grows up to 3.5m tall
  • Moist but well-drained soil
  • Full sun or partial shade
  • Sheltered
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10. Corylopsis pauciflora (buttercup witch hazel)

A great way to extend the scented season from winter over into spring is to plant one of these slow-growing medium-sized deciduous shrubs. The hanging clusters of scented, pale yellow, bell-shape flowers bloom around March. Their leaves are tinged red when young and it’s best to give them a sheltered position because late frosts could damage the flowers. If you need to prune them, do so immediately after flowering has finished.

  • Flowers in spring
  • Hardy
  • Grows up to 1.5m tall
  • Moist but well-drained or well-drained soil
  • Partial shade
  • Sheltered or exposed
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Bring another dimension to your winter garden with these scented shrubs. With evergreen choices, you can have structure all year round, some with the added interest of berries for depth and wildlife.

Find out more about adding texture to your garden:

Or check out my Pinterest board for more ideas:

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Adding texture
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