THE MODERN MINT BLOG

Feb11

Plant of the Week: Sarcococca

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!

Mar19

Wasting Water

Well worth a read in the BBC today – a note on how wasting water in the UK “as socially unacceptable as blowing smoke in the face of a baby.” Read the report here. I have written a talk about how we use water in the  garden. It was written when I moved from Hampshire to Essex and found out for myself just how dry this area of the UK is. It completely changed the way I garden. The lack of such a precious resource as water made me question what we can do to save it, store it and …

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Mar14

The Foie Gras That Tastes Like Nature

Ethical Foie Gras? Is That A Real Thing?   Foie gras – can it be ‘grown’ ethically? The video showing how this farmer works suggests it can… We first read about this in a book called The Third Plate by Dan Barber. I loved it and I love how Eduardo the farmer, who farms on the Dehesa in Spain, has a ‘take half leave half rule’. When talking about how the geese eat his olives… “They’re always quite fair. If you make sure the geese are relaxed and happy, you’ll be rewarded with the gift of fatty livers. That is God’s …

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Mar04

Hardy Orchids Via James Wong

Hardy orchids – here is a subject I would love to know more about – so lo and behold, James Wong has written about it in the Guardian! Read the article about hardy orchids here. I love having orchids in the house, just your usual run of the mill buy them in any shop orchids, but it is a pleasure to read about the plants that will grow outside and cope with this weather. (This insane weather! From the hottest days of February on record to Storm Freya, all within a week. Weather is always such a factor in gardening, but …

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