Gardens by their very nature are primarily enjoyed through our visual sense. However, gardening itself is a very tactile activity and the garden can be equally enjoyed through all our senses. The various textures of flowers, leaves, bark and the colours of plants are infinite and the scents plants exude can evoke a multiplicity of moods lifted by the sounds of the garden to connect us on a deeper level.
It is the scent of gardens at this time of year that tends to dominate our senses with subtle perfumes gently penetrating the cool crisp breeze of winter days. We are often left wandering in search of those sweet scents that many winter plants exude.
Winter is punctuated with plants that don't necessarily rely on flamboyant flowers to attract pollinators, although there are a few like the magnolias that tend to stand out amongst the crowd. Instead, many winter flowering plants rely on their scent.
The type of pollinators attracted to plants will vary considerably and includes insects such as moths, beetles, wasps and bees and for some plants bats, marsupials and even rodents can assist with the pollination of flowers.
Floral perfume can be a divine element of the winter garden and the perfume of flowers can send our olfactory system into sensory overload. Daphne, with its sweet fruit-driven perfume, and the lemon scent of magnolias meld with the delicate scent of sweet violets, jasmine, jonquils and daffodils, creating an ambience and sense of serenity, particularly on still nights.
The most fragrant shrubs of the winter garden are Osmanthus fragrans and Osmanthus delavayi. Despite their rather insignificant flowers, they punch well above their weight in the perfume stakes. With the scent of apricots, Osmanthus is a reminder of summer.
Two cultivars of O. delavayi are "Pearly Gates" and "Heaven Scent" which make ideal perfumed alternatives to a Buxus hedge.
Some of the camellia varieties can also provide a delicate fragrance, especially those that have been bred from the fragrant Camellia lutchuensis. Another beauty is "Scentuous", an open upright shrub with small white flushed soft pink irregular semi double flowers and a sweet fragrance.
Winter is a treasure trove in the garden with plenty of hidden gems to be found. To find them, you simply need to follow your nose.