Tinka Davi

If you walk in the garden early in the year and get hunger pangs for a cookie or cardamom bun, that’s could be because you’re near a Sarcococca ruscifolia.

Also known as “Sweetbox,” this plant has tiny white flowers that are hidden under its leaves. They’re very fragrant, even from a distance, and, as one writer put it, they give off “A sweet vanilla aroma that wafts through the air and smells like a Swedish bakery.”

Our Plant of the Month person, Rhonda DesVoignes said the flowers are very fragrant in January and February which are followed by red berries that turn black.

Plant Sweetbox near doors and walkways so the fragrance can be enjoyed by visitors and family.

The Sweetbox, an evergreen with shiny leaves, is originally from China and does well in zones 7 to 9. It likes dry shade – no hot sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. It requires very low water, so plant it a little high and only use light mulch kept well away from the crown.

If a cold snap occurs, the foliage may fall off, but will grow back in the spring.

It’s great for foundations and woodland gardens and will form a natural espalier when planted against a wall. Deer are not attracted to this plant.

POTM person Rhonda quoted a writer who said, “I think Sarcococca is the epitome of grace. She’s always beautiful and has many fine qualities, yet doesn’t thrust herself into the limelight and is above the gaudy displays and fripperies many plants put on to get attention. Really, how many plants bloom in winter? And are fragrant then? And will take the darkest of shade with nary a wishful stretch into the light? Her simple beauty makes all the other plants look good by association.”

BTW, other plants donated by Greg Gayton at Green Acres Nursery were the

Bee Alive Bidens, mounding and smothered in bloom from spring to fall and great for containers, hanging baskets and bed planting.

Skyscraper Pink Salvia, new plant in 2018, outstanding in containers, takes more shade than other salvias, long bloom with big flowers on a fairly compact plant.

Both these perennials are pollinator magnets and like the heat, Rhonda said.

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