Great Plants this Month

Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna

Sweet box

image of Louise Sims
Louise Sims

Also known as Christmas box, these are not shrubs to consign to any old corner of your garden just because they will tolerate deep shade. On the contrary, they are a great choice to plant against the north side of your home, or next to a path, or by the front or back door (whichever is the shadiest) – anywhere, in fact, where you will catch its sweet scent on the chill winter air.

This neat evergreen with its narrow, shiny, mid-green leaves is one of those quiet February pleasures that is so welcome at this time of the year. The densely packed reddish-purple stems bear an abundance of restrained white flowers that are flushed with pink; they are in fact little more than a collection of stamens and stigmas, but they more than fit the bill.

This sarcococca is similar to, but at the same time distinct from, S confusa which we also grow – the latter’s flowers are pure white, and some will argue that this one has the better fragrance – take it from me that they are both winter beauties and it’s just a matter of personal preference. They both grow to about 5’ high and the same across.

In order to keep ours within bounds, I clip it quite hard after flowering, almost as topiary; however, left unpruned, it is an elegant shrub with great foliage for winter flower arrangements.

NB Louise has published a beautifully produced book of her plant profiles – A Plant for Each Week of the Year. It costs £9.99 and is for sale in our online shop here.

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By the3growbags

We're three sisters who love gardening, plants and even the science of horticulture but we're not all experts. We'd love everyone even remotely interested in their gardens to be part of our blogsite.

10 replies on “Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna”

Well it would be a dull old world if we all loved the same thing Glenys! But that said, our tastes change. You might love it if you gave it another go? It certainly is surprisingly strong for such a generally frozen time of year!

Love your choice of Sarcococca. I have plants of S. confusa by front and back doors. The smell really cheers me up on a cold winter’s day . My front door faces south. It will grow in full sun in Derby!

So pleased that you’re also enjoying your S confusa ….. and so interested to read how happy yours is facing south …. they’re so adaptable aren’t they!

Hello – I was always told that the hookeriana variety was only able to survive long term in acid soil, although the confusa variety is fine on any soil. I have one which is belting out its fragrance now and is in deep shade.

Hello Julia, sometimes the books just get it wrong …. our soil is nowhere near acid and it’s loving life!
I can never decide which one I prefer, confusa or hookeriana; it’s usually the one I’m looking at, at that moment!
Happy gardening, Louise

I’ve just bought one each of these! (In 1/2 price sale at my local Garden centre which is being refurbished , before you call me extravagant! 🙂 )
Not deciding where to put them! Do they need shade or will they survive in a sunny spot?

We’ll, I’d say shade or at least part shade by preference, but do read the comment Ros just wrote above! And don’t forget, sometimes they are slow to get going!

Dear Louise – If I hard pruned one of these every year, immediately after it flowered, would it still flower? Best wishes, Tim

Well Tim, I prune mine every year (unless I forget!) and this year it’s going to be hard. I don’t anticipate losing any of the usual show of flowers …. good luck!

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