Now Add Color and Fragrance
Also consider smell when planning a winter garden. Winter daphne (Daphne odora) is a classic that always reminds me of my grandmother, mostly for her habit of trying to grow it in unfriendly terrain. Daphnes are fussy, so make sure you have adequate drainage and at least a half day’s sun. And leave them be; they don’t like being transplanted.
Darjeeling (Daphne bholua ‘Darjeeling’) is a tall, slender shrub that blooms with pale pink flowers in November and fills the air with a sweet custard fragrance through January. One of the great cultivars of odora (D. odora ‘Aureomarginata’) offers crisp, white flowers and what I find to be a more endearing scent. Alba’s (D. odora ‘Alba’) blue-green leaves and white flowers smell like lilies all year long.
Another option is camellias. But there are many varieties beyond the blazing reds that seem to have flooded the chain nurseries. A good one to check out is Camellia transarisanensis —the kind of small-flowered camellia that Jane Platt favored, which can be found blooming in the Portland Classical Chinese Garden. But my favorite—Narumigata (Camellia sasanqua ‘Narumigata’)—is an old Japanese cultivar. It reaches six- to eight-feet high and is easily turned into a hedge. Its two-inch leaves grow densely against the branches that yield a yearly festival of color with pearly white flowers, each with a cluster of pale yellow stamens in the center. It’s a show that commences in early November and, barring a hard freeze, lasts into January. Narumigata also has another quality that is lost in many modern hybrids: an earthy, sweet fragrance guaranteed to etch a memory at an entrance or exit to your garden.