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The Independent Culture
SOME evergreens have the advantage of winter flowers as well as cheerful leaves, and the rarity value of any flower in the nasty months makes these particularly desirable plants. Anyone who gardens on acid or neutral soil is lucky; they can grow camellias. These are the shrubs that tend to congregate, with rhododendrons, in huge woodland settings, but carefully sited they are just as suitable for smaller gardens The sasanqua forms produce scented single flowers on neat shining bushes in Novem-ber. They used to be almost unobtainable, but a new supplier, Coghurst Nursery (Ivy House Lane, near Three Oaks, Hastings, East Sussex TN35 4NP), showed a collection of sasanquas before Christmas at the Westminster Flower Show.

The better-known, large-flowered japonica forms of camellia, such as "Donation", seem to me too conspicuous for gardens where perennials are grown. All summer they stand uneasily in the mixed border; the narrow- leafed forms like the sasanquas are much easier to place. So too is "Cornish Snow", a small-flowered variety with single white flowers and a graceful shape, but it is not for cold gardens. In the microclimate of a large town it might be one to try.

The laurustinus (Viburnum tinus) is planted much more often than the camellia. The form most often sold is "Eve Price", which makes a small bush, but "Gwenllian" is better if you want more height and spread. In warm gardens, "Lucidum" is worth growing for its larger, less dusty-looking leaves. The flowers are bigger, too, and appear against a background of glistening green, but this laurustinus is not as hardy as "Eve Price".

The mahonias, with their huge holly-like leaves, have been improved by the hybridisers, who crossed the old scented japonica form with the dramatic lomariifolia. Their children - "Charity", "Lionel Fortescue" and "Buckland" are best known - may be better looking than either of their parents, but none is as scented as Mahonia japonica. The pale yellow flowers like beads, which smell of lilies of the valley, make this old unimproved form my first choice.

Another large flowering evergreen is Garrya elliptica. It does not really flower, but produces long tassels of catkins against its grey-green leaves. Not everyone warms to it but it can be beautiful if the leaves escape the frost scorch that often blemishes them. The best form is "James Roof".

The point of sarcococcas is their scent. These are tiny shrubs and the flowers are almost invisible, but a bush by the back door smells of honey every time you go in or come out of the house. A couple of inches of this evergreen is enough to scent a room. Sometimes called the Christmas box, this little shrub will grow anywhere.

Like the sarcococcas, the Daphne laureola is an insignificant plant and not fussy about deepest shade. Its flowers, too, are scented, but green rather than white. In summer both of these will fade into the background in the difficult places where no summer flower would dream of growing.