Aroma therapy: The flowering plants that will fill your garden with uplifting winter scents

My attempts at indoctrination seem to be working: I've been taking a chilly group around the garden at Kew, making them breathe in and smell the winter flowers. "Ah," a friendly German man says, "I have always just looked around the garden with my eyes. I'm learning now to use my nose too."

The thing about the rich perfumes of winter plants is that they shock you out of thinking everything around you is dead or dormant – especially at this time of year, when lots of plants are working hard to attract the few pollinators around.

At Hinton Ampner in Hampshire, one of my favourite smaller country gardens, Ralph Dutton designed his east lawn around the little parish church. He knew that, whether it was summer or winter, the congregation was likely to gather on the grass for a few minutes after the Sunday service. So he planted the lawn with fragrant winter flowers so their scent would float over the faithful, a reward for having braved church on a cold morning.

Dutton's choices included daphnes, which have small pink flowers between shiny leaves edged with a zingy lime. They are fairly difficult to grow, but their scent makes it worth the effort.

For help in choosing which varieties to plant, get hold of the Gardeners' Question Time Plant Chooser (Kyle Cathie, £16.99). It's written by connoisseurs who have seen it all, and they make some unusual choices as well as providing expert growing advice. On the subject of daphnes, for example, Bob Flowerdew warns not to count on them as a permanent fixture: "They live about as long as a good-quality car. You may get 10 or 15 years, but even if it only makes five it's worth it."

At Hinton Ampner, Dutton underplanted his daphnes with fragrant bulbs such as hyacinths, another good lesson. Hyacinths can provide late-winter fragrance to even the smallest front garden or patio.

Dutton also planted some more unusual winter bloomers, such as Sarcococcas, which infuse the terraces at Kew with their sweet fragrance for at least a month. Kew also has Sarcococca hookeriana in flower, pouring out perfume as if it were at home in the Himalayas. As John Cushnie says in the Plant Chooser of the more widely available Sarcococca confusa: "This perfectly behaved shrub deserves to be planted in every garden in the country. There is no excuse."

Winter Sweet (Chimonanthus fragrans) is another delicious performer. Bob Flowerdew recommends pulling off individual flowers and floating them in a bowl of water, where they will still be heavily fragrant. And my favourite is the Paper Bush (Edgeworthia chrysantha), because for me it has the very best flowers to go with that penetrating perfume – tiny little drips of yellow bells – and the very best story: its appealing papery bark was made by the Japanese into special high-grade sheets for bank notes.

As Dutton demonstrated, winter-fragrant plants are best placed where people are going to be passing by. Right by a front door is a good spot. "I planted them all round the bins at my old house," says a friend, "so when I took the black bags out on a freezing morning I got a reward."

Sadly, Hinton Ampner is not open again until Easter, but plenty of gardens are. I'm off to do RHS Wisley's Frost and Fragrance Trail, and I'll be sniffing all the way round.

RHS Wisley in Woking, Surrey (0845 260 9000), is open every day from 10am- 4.30pm

Read Emma Townshend's new column at blogs.independent.co.uk/independent/a_nice_green_leaf/

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Technician

£20000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This long established dealer gr...

Recruitment Genius: Contact Centre Team Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company is the UK's leading...

Recruitment Genius: Shunter / HGV Driver

£23172 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading and fastest growing h...

Recruitment Genius: Property Manager / Estate Manager

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an experienced Resident...

Day In a Page

Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate