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Shrubs for Early Spring Fragrance

In this article we write about early spring flowering shrubs, their importance to pollinators at this time of the year and the benefits they provide to your garden. We've picked out some of our favourites.

Early spring flowering shrubs tend to have small flowers which are less likely to be damaged by wind and bad weather. To compensate, and attract the few pollinators that may be active, they often have a strong fragrance. We highly recommend having at least one such shrub in your garden to brighten the long cold days early in the year, and of course, provide sustenance for pollinators. A useful tip is to plant them somewhere close to a path or door, so you catch the fragrance in passing. A sprig brought into the house can scent an entire room.

These are some of our favourites:

Sarcococca, or Christmas box. These are unfussy, small, evergreen shrubs which are easy to grow and will cope with dry shade. They have tiny, insignificant flowers which pump out perfume. There are several species to choose from, all fragrant. Even the smallest garden can accommodate one.

Coronilla valentina glauca ‘Citrina’ AGM. A small, scrambly evergreen shrub with small grey-green leaves and clusters of yellow pea-like flowers. Likes full sun and shelter, and flowers intermittently all year, including autumn to spring.

Lonicera x purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’ AGM, winter honeysuckle. Not a climber, but a very hardy and strong growing semi-evergreen shrub bearing clusters of fragrant white flowers in winter and early spring.

Viburnum x botnantense. ‘Deben’, ‘Charles Lamont’ and ‘Dawn’ are all varieties of this deliciously fragrant deciduous shrub which have been awarded an AGM. The pink or white flowers are born in clusters from late autumn to spring. Viburnum farreri AGM (V fragrans) is similar, but has smaller clusters of blooms, and is more upright in habit. They are strong growing plants, ideal for the back of a border.

Daphnes must be included for their outstanding scent, though they are not the easiest shrubs to grow or propagate. They prefer being planted in a sunny or partly shaded, sheltered, well-drained spot in the ground rather than in a pot, and do not like being moved. Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ AGM is an upright evergreen shrub eventually reaching about 3m. It bears masses of highly fragrant pink flowers in late winter to early spring, filling the whole garden with perfume. A smaller variety is Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ which has leaves with a fine yellow edge, and very fragrant pink flowers from mid-winter to early spring.

Two more recently introduced daphnes are Daphne x transatlantica ‘Eternal Fragrance’ AGM with white flowers blushed pink, and its sister ‘Pink Fragrance’ with mid pink flowers. They are hybrids of

D caucasica and D sericea. Like other daphnes, they do best in a well-drained soil in sun or part shade but seem less fussy, and easier to grow. They are small semi-evergreen shrubs with the classic daphne fragrance, but significantly they flower from early spring and throughout the year making them an excellent choice.