These three top plants can be relied upon to concoct a memorable garden of delightful smells this January.
So, let’s welcome in the new year by taking a look at some of the seasonal plants for colour in this January.
You’ll find that in sheltered spots in the garden, you can successfully grow frost-sensitive plants like Chimonanthus praecox (wintersweet).
Once established this large flowering shrub produces spicy scented flowers from December through to March.
The alluring pale waxy-yellow, bowl- or bell-shaped flowers are noticeably stained with red. They have many petals with outer tepals that are almost transparent and are held in clusters along the branches making them noticeable from a distance.
Given the backdrop of a warm sunny south-facing or east-facing wall, this notoriously slow shrub, which has the potential to reach up to 4m tall within 10-20 years, will soon reward with its potpourri violet-like scented blooms.
Much like the flowers, the leaves, which resemble spearheads, have a sweet-smelling aroma when crushed.
The variety ‘Grandiflorus’ has the largest flowers, which can be smelled from up to 50 yards away! The flowering stems are prized by flower arrangers who often cut them to and bring them indoors to act as a natural, sweet-smelling air freshener.
FUN FACT: Wintersweet blooms can be used to flavour and scent tea or added to potpourri and the oil extracted from the flowers is used in Chinese medicines.
One plant that you will kill with kindness is Iris unguicularis—also known as the Algerian Iris. The buds open in succession through the darkest days to reveal large mauve-blue, fragile flowers, which have vivid egg-yolk yellow streaks on the fall petals or a white feather-like frill. The petals are held close together, making for a fuller, fatter flower than a typical iris.
Too much fertiliser and soil enriched with organic matter makes them run to leaf rather than produce flowers.
To thrive, this evergreen rhizomatous perennial needs a poor soil and the grittier the better.
In mild weather, you may find it flowering as early as Christmas and right into March. Throughout this period, check the grassy clump of arching, narrow leaves for the flower buds.
If you have a taste for the unusual, try the almost white variety ‘Walter Butt’ or the deep violet ‘Mary Bernard’ for a spectacular show.
Although congested clumps tend to flower better, you can divide them in autumn or spring but expect the divisions to sulk for a little while before they become established.
FUN FACT: Algerian iris flowers don’t last long but can be picked before they unfurl and enjoyed in a vase indoors where their delightful sweet scent will fill a warm room.
Snowdrops are one of the earliest flowers in the year to bloom giving cheer on even the darkest days and the promise of better things to come. Reliable and unassuming, these little plants have hardened tips that enable them to force their way through even the most frosted ground on a cold crisp morning.
The flower of the British native, Galanthus nivalis, has long, elliptical outer petals, and inner petals that feature a bold green mark at the tip and silvery green leaves.
A pumped-up version of the common snowdrop is supersized variety ‘S. Arnott’ that has beautiful pure white flowers with a bold inverted heart-like green mark at the tips.
It smells deliciously of honey and the bees adore it.
A deliciously sweet scent is also produced by Galanthus, known as the Turkish snowdrop, which has oval pure white blooms with green inverted V marks at the tip of each inner petal.
It likes a dry place and thrives when tucked in the base of a tree or squeezed into the tiniest of gaps on a rockery. But nothing beats the awesome sight of a planting en masse beneath trees and shrubs where they give the garden the icy look of a fresh fall of snow!
Snowdrops are readily available by mail order from February to May when they are sold ‘in the green’. These are bare rooted and supplied just as the flower is starting to fade but before the leaves have started to elongate.