THE MODERN MINT BLOG
Another winter favourite, Sarcococca is a lovely plant with a lovely name to say. Sar-co-co-cca. Sarcococca. Impress your non-gardening friends by pulling this one out…. and then confusing them by calling it Christmas or Sweet box, its common name.
It makes it to Plant of the Week by virtue of its strong perfume, which can make your nose twitch with its bewitching charm. But there are many other qualities to this evergreen shrub.
It grows well in lime or acid soil.
It tolerates shade.
It is a slow grower, so doesn’t need lots of pruning.
It doesn’t suffer from pests and diseases (it can replace Buxus as an edging plant in gardens effected by blight. Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis is the one to try for this.)
It can be used in a cottage garden or a more formal design.
It is good for cutting and taking into the house, where it will perfume a room.
It has berries for the birds.
Sounds too good to be true. So what, then, are its problems?
The flowers are…modest. Very modest. In fact, you probably won’t even notice it flowering, and will only be aware that its moment in the garden has come when the fragrance of the flower hits you from several paces away, making you search for the source of this wonderful scent. Let us not just judge by the flower power of a plant though. We can be more sagacious than that. Which brings us on to the next point…
… you might think the leaf dull (you might, even though it shines like glossy paper, reflecting all possible light and warmth there is to be found in a shady, neglected spot. A far better leaf to have working for you in your garden than the light thieving mass of a rhododendron.)
We willingly fight to advertise this plants qualities, don’t we?
What can you plant with it? Try a clump-forming fern, some strands of vinca, hydrangeas, dicentra perhaps, with a clematis growing up a wall behind it. It is a shrub that will provide valuable support to others, rather than being the star performer.
Or place around it some bulbs, like snowdrops, a variegated ivy and the flower and foliage of hellebores (as the stat attraction) and you have a simple yet restorative winter scene. Made all the more rewarding by the bounty of the Sarcococca’s scent.
For more great winter-flowering shrubs, ge tthis book!
Guanock House needs a trainee topiary artist! Some of you may know it as the first home and garden of designer Arne Maynard, but is now owned and maintained by Michael Coleman and his wife Michelle. They offer meditation workshops and retreats there and it is as beautiful a house and garden as you could wish to visit. They called me in last Autumn to help shape up some of the topiary as it was all getting out of hand, but what it really needs is someone with a steady hand and lots of patience to take over the clipping …
Here are some photos of work I have been doing at the garden of Charlotte Molesworth in Kent. Snow and ice brings out the depth of the different planes and angles carved into the boxwood. A garden has to look beautiful in winter – and topiary (green architecture) helps do that! For more topiary pictures, click here.
How To Use Topiary In The Garden is my new talk, which I first gave last year via Zoom for the European Boxwood And Topiary Society. Returning to Zoom again, there are two dates available to see and hear the talk: March 16th – Book your ticket here April 6th – Book your ticket here The talk is great fun, perfect for keen gardeners or people who want to know how to improve their garden with hedges and architectural plants. How To Use Topiary In The Garden looks at how to move away from the idea topiary is twee or old-fashioned, …