NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

A Gardening Journal

The Best Spring Ever: Himalayan Box in Bloom

Many of the shrubs and trees that bloom in Winter or early Spring—most witch hazels, Cornelian cherry, paper bush, true forsythia, mahonia, spice bush, yellow magnolia, winter jasmine, winter hazel, wintersweet, stachyurus, and Father Hugo's rose—bear yellow flowers.

 

White flowers are a sparse second. Here in not-quite-Zone 7, white blooms of the straight species are the norm only for winter honeysuckle, white forsythia, white magnolia and, below, sweet box. Flowers of ornamental quince and winter daphne can be enjoyed only via their cultivars and forms.

Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna Purple Stem 032116 in the garden 320

All the yellow flowers are showy but some—Cornelian cherry, true forsythia, and winter jasmine in particular—aren't notably fragrant.

 

Flowers of all the Winter whites except ornamental quince are so fragrant the plants could even be grown for that characteristic alone. These of Himalayan box—tiny as well as hidden beneath the foliage—may lack visual appeal for anyone but a plant geek, but their sweet and penetrating fragrance gives this otherwise unassuming shrub a delightfully stealthy presence.

Many of the shrubs and trees that bloom in Winter or early Spring—most witch hazels, Cornelian cherry, paper bush, true forsythia, mahonia, spice bush, yellow magnoliawinter jasmine, winter hazel, wintersweet, stachyurus, and Father Hugo's rose—bear yellow flowers.

 

White flowers are a sparse second. Here in not-quite Zone 7, white blooms of the straight species are the norm only for winter honeysuckle, white magnolia, white forsythia and, below, sweet box. White lowers of ornamental quince and winter daphne are possible only via their cultivars.

 

Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna Purple Stem 032116 in the garden 640

 

Flowers of all the Winter whites except ornamental quince are so fragrant these plants could even be grown for that characteristic alone. These of Himalayan box are tiny; what looks like an ominous pink whale in the picture above is merely my fingertip.

 

The little flowers are hidden beneath the foliage, too, and mostly face downward. Given that this entire shrub of Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna isn't even a foot tall, it is difficult to photograph the flowers head-on; for the picture below, I clipped a stem and brought it indoors to photograph upside down. Even so, I needed to pull a couple of leaves off the stem to reveal the flowers. 

 

Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna Purple Stem 032116 details overall 640

 

Without large colorful petals, and positioned so that the thick leaves preclude access from larger pollinators, flowers of sweet box certainly aren't visited by butterflies or birds and, probably, not even by bees. Ants are more likely, because they could crawl up the comparatively short stems of this dense shrub while staying fully hidden from aerial predators.  

 

Although the flowers of Himalayan box lack visual appeal for anyone other than a plant geek, their sweet and penetrating fragrance gives this otherwise unassuming shrub a delightfully stealthy presence. When the air is still, the light honeyed scent of Sarcococca becomes as pervasive as that of the massive Summer bloomer, Quicksilver elaeagnus

 

 

Here's how to grow Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna 'Purple Stem', as well as a look at the overall colony when the flowers were just buds.

 
 
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