Feeling blue? Longing for spring? Whilst winter brings cold, frost and sleet, did you ever imagine that gardens can be deliciously scented amidst the snowfall? 

Banish the winter blues

Whether you have a small courtyard or a large country garden, there’s always room for seasonal embellishment. Take a sleigh ride through our winter wonderland of fragrant frosty favourites that bring a tantalising spring tease in the cold depths of winter.  

Look out for the ‘famous four’

Naturally, every gardener wants to get the best from their plants and it’s easy to buy the first thing that catches your eye at the garden centre. Avoid ghastly errors by looking out for the famous four: if a plant can provide great foliage, form, flower and fragrance, then it’s a sure-fire winner. Try choosing plants that have at least two of these features.


Yellow flowers of wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox)

Chimonanthus praecox, better known as ‘wintersweet’  (H. 4m x S. 2.5m) is crusted with delightful pale yellow flowers on bare stems from January to February and adores full sun. Wintersweet is also great for cutting: plunge a few stems into an old tin bucket to brighten a bereft patch in the garden or bring them in to enliven your living space. 

Scented snowfall from Clematis

Winter flowers and foliage of Clematis urophylla ‘Winter Beauty’

You’d never guess the glistening white pendulous flower of Clematis urophylla ‘Winter Beauty’  (H.3m x S.2.5m) is from the buttercup family. With glossy evergreen leaves and flowering profusely from December to February in sun or part-shade, it’s a must-have scented snow-shower ideal for small gardens, fences and walls. 

And whilst on the subject of climbers, it’s surprising how few gardeners know about Clematis napaulensis (H.3m x S.1.5m) that should surely make it onto your most-wanted list. Arguably, it’s a bit of a luxury for smaller spaces that require plants that sing for their supper all year-round.  Yet a small garden’s loss is a bigger garden’s gain with this unlikely climber that sits bare-stemmed seemingly doing nothing for much of the year. By summer’s end, you’ll begin to wonder why on earth you bothered. But wait… When it flowers, boy oh boy, are you in for a treat!  

Planted in full sun, with the arrival of late autumn this semi- evergreen climber suddenly bursts into leaf followed by spectacular scented limey belled flowers with deep mauve stamens pirouetting like tiny ballerinas from November to March. 

Structural planting plus a splash of winter sun

Mahonia x media flowers in bloom

Full sun or part shade and any average soil will see growing success with Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’ (H.5m x S.4m). It’s not just a winter treat for gardeners, it’s also adored by late bees making it the best kind of eco-warrior. Deep green holly-type leaves steepled with pale lemon sweetly-scented spires from November to March certainly earn their keep, providing year-round evergreen structure and zingy winter flowering.

Great foliage, great structure and gorgeous scent

Ebbing’s Silverberry’ Limelight’ (Elaeagnus x ebbingei)

Elaeagnus x ebbingei (H.4m x S. 4m) is one of the most fragrant of winter shrubs that’s big on form, foliage and perfume. Tiny white flowers peer shyly beneath appealing silver-dusted leaves and pack a surprisingly intense perfumed punch from October to November. Elaeagnus is versatile too, planted in sun or part shade, it proves a dependable ally, ideal for hedging, focal accents, screening and makes an effective windbreak in coastal gardens.

Bijou garden that’s big on fragrance

Lonicera x purpusii ‘Winter beauty’ flowers

The name says it all, doesn’t it? Lonicera x purpusii ‘Winter beauty’ (H.2m x S. 2.5m) is just gagging to be grown in small courtyards and gardens that can offer full sun or partial shade. Plant this heaven-scent deciduous shrub under the kitchen window, along paths or near garden seating for summer breeze fragrance from December to March.

Decadent flowers with delicious perfume

Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ flowers

Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ (H.3m x S.2m) is a glorious deciduous shrub studded with generous knuckle-dusters of highly-scented rose-pink clusters from November to March planted in sun or part shade. Short-of-space gardeners need not feel deprived of its floral charms, just plant it in a pot to restrict its size and spread.

Live fragrantly! Growing even just one of these fabulous plants will transform your outdoor space into a garden for all seasons.