Updated: Jan 7, 2020
As there are fewer pollinating insects flying during the winter months, many of those plants that flower at this time of year produce strong perfume to attract maximum attention to themselves.
It only takes a bit of low winter sun to warm these flowers up enough to send delicious scent wafting around the garden, or if the fireside is more your style at this time of year, cut a few stems for a vase to scent the whole house.
Here are my top 5;
1. Mahonia x media 'Winter Sun'
Mahonia are easy, evergreen shrubs that usually start flowering in early winter. They are great for keeping late flying bees happy with their densely packed racemes of perfumed, sulphur yellow flowers.
To prevent plants looking leggy and sparse at the base as they mature, prune 1 or 2 stems to ground level every other year.
Mahonia make great great specimen shrubs and are happy in sun or light shade.
2. Sarcococca hookeriana
Sarcococca are compact, mound forming evergreen shrubs with small, glossy looking leaves.
The flowers are small, white and tassel like and not particularly showy. Indeed you might well smell them before you notice them!
They do best out of strong sun and I have one planted just outside my front door so that the strong, heady perfume greets me every time I come and go from the house ;)
3. Daphne bholua 'Jaqueline Postill'
This upright, evergreen shrub can grow to 3m, so needs some space and dislikes strong sunlight and cold winds. Daphnes generally dislike being hard pruned too.
However, assuming you have the right spot, you won't regret planting one!
In late winter, clusters of intensely fragrant white flowers, flushed purple pink are freely produced at the ends of stems.
I have one planted outside my back door in a shady spot where it gets more rewarding with each passing year
4. Viburnum x bodnantense 'Dawn'
This upright, deciduous shrub flowers on its' bare stems over a long period from late autumn until spring.
Clusters of heavily scented white flowers open from deep pink buds throughout winter during frost free periods. A few stems cut and brought into the house will release a heady perfume.
This can make a large shrub and if you have limited space, is best checked by removing a few of the older stems at ground level in early spring.
5. Chimonanthus praecox
Last but not least, is 'Wintersweet' which hails from China.
Chimonanthus makes a large deciduous shrub, not dissimilar to Hazel and flowers in late winter on bare stems. The flowers are small and waxy looking (see close up below) and scent is to die for!
They make good candidates as lawn specimens or in shrub borders but if space is limited, can be trained as a wall shrub.
There are loads more scented winter flowering plants to choose from; Hamamellis (Witch Hazels), Iris unguicularis,
Clematis cirrhosa var. balearica, Clematis armandii, Galanthus
What are you waiting for ??