Enjoy the beautiful scent of the sweet box
Follow your nose to Kew's Woodland Garden, where the sweet-smelling sweet box is covered in flowers.
21 Jan 2011
Sarcococca confusa (Image: Pippa Healy, www.kewgardensdailyphoto.com)
Take a walk through Kew's Woodland Garden and you will notice a gorgeously sweet smell filling the air. This delightful scent comes from the evergreen Christmas, or sweet box which comes from China and the Himalayas. Related to the common box, Buxus sempervirens, Kew has several species, including Sarcococca hookeriana, which was named after Kew's second director, Joseph Hooker, who visited the Sikkim Himalaya in the late 1840s. Another, Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna (above), which has a red tint to the leaf stalks (otherwise known as petioles), flowers and more slender foliage. This was discovered by the famous plant hunter, and former Kew gardener, Ernest ('Chinese') Wilson.
Sarcococca hookeriana var.digyna (Image: Pippa Healy)
Often underappreciated, these marvellous plants come into their own in the dreariest months of the year, from December to March, when they are covered in tiny flowers which emit a huge scent. These plants are tolerant of both shade and urban pollution but are less keen on dry soils and drought. The biggest one in the Woodland Garden, in the Museum border which runs alongside Kew Road, is Sarcococca confusa (above), the largest and most bushy of the sweet boxes.
The combination of Sarcocca, Edgeworthia, Camellia and Cyclamen means that there is plenty of winter interest in this area. And as you leave Victoria Plaza heading towards the pond, look out for the Temple of Aeolus – the focal point of the Woodland Garden.
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