Sarcococca confusa is commonly known as Sweet Box – a name it well deserves being both a member of the Box (Buxaceae) family AND blessed with gloriously scented flowers in, most unusually, the winter (December through to March). This alone would justify its place in the garden. The glossy black berries come later, adding further interest to its equally glossy, dark green foliage. The leaves grow up to 5cm long.
Sweet Box At-A-Glance
Foliage Type: Evergreen
Flowers: Small, sweet scented creamy-white flowers in winter
Ease of maintenance: ✯✯✯✯✯
Drought Resistance: ✯✯✯✯
Soil type: Chalk, Clay, Sand or Loam
Wet/Dry: Prefers damp but well-draining soil
Preferred situation: Sun or Partial Shade
Growth Rate: Medium
Soil and Situation: Although a shade loving plant, keep its roots moist (but well-drained) in moderately fertile, humus-rich soil and it will happily cope with full sun. Plant facing any aspect offering a degree of shelter.
Maintenance: A doddle! Not especially fast-growing, trimming and mulching annually will keep it in shape and happy. It is truly forgiving of neglect, remarkably resilient to pollution and resilient to pests & diseases. Mulch after pruning.
Versatility: Left to its own devices as informal ground cover (great on slopes) or trimmed for a more formal look, few plants are less fussy or more forgiving in terms of soil and situation. And how many other plants offer the scent of summer in the middle of winter? Plant a clump by the back door and you can stick your head out in February and be transported to June.
And finally: Sarcococca confusa is often planted as ground cover but this is to miss a trick. With a little patience in can easily be trained and trimmed to create the best-scented formal hedge. Incidentally, the name Sarcococca comes from sarcos (fruit) and cocca (berries).