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Article: Christmas Box: Growing Sarcococca: Wonderful in A Victorian Walled Garden!

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Forum: Article: Christmas Box: Growing SarcococcaReplies: 3, Views: 60
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United Kingdom

November 30, 2009
10:21 AM

Post #7320963

Dear Sue, another lovely article on what is basically a much forgotten plant! In the first year of my Apprenticeship I had started in the spring so everything had seemed quite wonderful. The summer was perfect and I was learning all the time, the Autumn was apart from the colours, a matter of constant leaf clearance. I did not know what to expect for the winter, maybe no colour and once the leaves were done, maybe boredom.
I was totally wrong on all counts. The snow had finally come and in the areas I normally worked in there did not seem to be much, apart from a stunning blue cedar in the center of the main lawn. This magnificent tree simply dwarfed the area and looked amazing against the snow. Talking to my Foreman about plants, and that there was not really much about in my area, he decided to take me for a walk around the rest of the park. A lot of the plants he had taught me in the summer, but I had never seen them in the winter. I had cut down some cornus in the spring as one of my first ever jobs, now the red and gold bark of the new shoots, was quite breathtaking against the white flooring. We went into the walled garden and the smell of the viburnums was lovely. I was taken to the corner of the north facing wall, and there were some New Zealand tassel bushes, looking strange with their tassels hanging down against the red brick Victorian wall, but beautiful against the glinting snow. Either side of these were Sarcococca's planted in groups in front of winter jasmine that had scrambled up the wall, a nice idea.
The smell was amazing and I had to know what they were, so I tentatively asked my Foreman as it normally would cost me a pint of beer if I did not know anything, or worse got something wrong.
So he told me what they were and that most people missed them entirely as they stayed in over the winter, and they are not a plant many people ever notice. I do now as they are a lovely treat in winter.
I was annoyed with myself for never thinking about this wonderful plant, they are as you say a normally trouble free plant, is that why they are not often thought about?
My Foreman took me to his collection of witchhazels, although there were some in the park when he started some 40 years previously, he had collected and added everyone he could find.
I had admired them in the Autumn for their co;ours, but did not even know they flowered, let alone in the winter. These spider like flowers in differing colours, at different times in the winter and early spring, intrigued me.
For how could they make such an incredible scent, they have mystified me ever since and I love them.
Regards from London.

United Kingdom
(Zone 8a)

November 30, 2009
6:28 PM

Post #7322306

Hello Neil!

Glad you enjoyed the article. I've always been interested in winter gardening, I'm a huge fan of Rosemary Verey's garden at Barnsley House and luckily got to see it when she was still alive before it was closed to the public and the house turned into a hotel.
As I said in the article I was bewitched by a Sarcococca in the gardens at Harlow Carr when I lived in Yorkshire. It blew me away! British gardeners are so lucky to be able to grow these plants, witchhazels, wintersweet and the lovely skimmias and camellias. When I moved to Maine I was stunned to discover that gardening was only possible for a few months every year and absolutely stopped when the snow came in November.. and to have absolutely no sign of anything green until April.. no January snowdrops or March daffodils!
So I am loving being back home in Northumberland, and enjoying the wonderful public gardens here, like Alnwick garden, Wallington Hall and Howick Hall, all have wonderful winter plants.

Here's a pic of Viburnum bodnantense from Alnwick last Saturday, and I did stick my nose right into the blossom to enjoy the beautiful fragrance.

Take care

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United Kingdom

November 30, 2009
10:26 PM

Post #7322936

Dear Sue, my grandma came from Northallerton, then moved to a cottage near Blubberhouse moor. When my father was born in Harrogate General Hospital, grandma moved to Fewston near Beckwithshaw. As the family got bigger, grandma moved into a large house in Harrogate itself. Then my father met my mother in Harrogate, who is a Geordie from Consett County Durham, so I was born in Harrogate as well!
I have been to Harlow Carr Gardens hundreds of times; it is a fantastic place, and really should be seen by anyone who is into gardening, I also remember the Valley Gardens in Harrogate as well, another lovely place. I have worked at Wisley whilst at college doing my City & Guilds & R.H.S. exams, and again whilst at University. Wisley has its moments, like anywhere, but Harlow Carr always draws me back. Maybe it is my fond memories of a misspent youth according to my parents; they were into farming and I was into plants, so we clashed a bit, in fact a lot!
I say London is where I now live with my wife, but luckily it is 5 minutes away from Kent, so it is right on the border of the garden of England.
We do go back up north twice a year to see the family, but Harrogate is more expensive than where I live!
Please keep writing for I read and absorb your articles, one day I might put something on DGs if they let me.
Regards from the London , Kent border.
p.s. I rescued this Acer griseum from the Chelsea Flower Show when I did it and got a Silver Gilt Medal for my college, but underneath it are some cyclamens I got from a great friend in Yorkshire. It now lives as well as the cyclamen do, in my mothers garden.

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December 1, 2009
12:07 PM

Post #7324509

Good stuff Kniphofia and Neil, my favourite holiday is to tour the gardens of Britain. With the euro strong against the pound, I might just get another trip in next year. I don't understand why Britain does not market it's gardens better. (Not that we do, either)

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