Fragrant favourite

Posted 15 Jun 2024

Garden expert Trevor Nottle recommends planting the old-fashioned fragrant shrub Wintersweet as a welcome addition when few other things are in bloom.
Chimonasnthus fragrans

Almost as soon as the last leaves are blown off, the Wintersweet begins to open its waxen yellowish blooms, sending a spicy scent through the garden.

The shrub is found in older gardens in some Adelaide gardens as a well-established 3m tall shrub, however it's not common.

Chimonasnthus fragrans is its Latin name, and it tells us all we need to know: it is fragrant.

Apart from that, it has a pretty quiet impact on the garden scene, but since it flowers at a time when few other things do, it is always welcome. It is one of those old-fashioned shrubs
that must be searched around for. It won’t be found among the specials and cheap plants at the big shed outlets. It will have to be ordered in, and it is best to enquire at a nursery known for its service and ability to find sources for plants now considered unusual.

The plant seems indifferent as to soils and pH growing as it does on the alkaline soils of the Adelaide Plains as well as the neutral to acid soils of the Adelaide Hills.

As a garden plant, Chimonanthus is a medium-tall shrub that grows to approximately 3m x 2m. To do well, it needs to be planted in a sunny position, though shade or dappled shade for part of the day will suit it just fine. It appreciates a mulch of roughly shredded leaves, twigs, small branches, and the like. In our Hills garden, it is not watered in Summer, but on the Plains and in gardens where competition for moisture in Summer is high, it will benefit from a decent soaking every two months or so.

We have not observed any pests or diseases on our thirty-year-old bush. Occasionally, it can be colonised by scale insects, but they are quickly dealt with by conventional means. Treatment and management call for a light hand. Pruning, if necessary, is best done when the flowers are finished and before new growth begins in spring. Cutting branches and twigs for indoor decoration is often enough to maintain shrubs in a good state of growth effectively. Hard pruning with a saw or chainsaw will reduce overgrown bushes with no lasting damage. Regrowth with the Spring flush will be vigorous and can be safely recommended.

Wintersweet mixes happily with other medium-sized shrubs. It is best planted where passers-by will be close enough to enjoy the fragrance of its flowers as they pass.

Read More