Sweetbox

Himalayan Sarcococa; or,
Dwarf Fragrant Sweetbox; or,
Christmas Box

"I've seen the forest
Adorned the foremost,
With flowers of the fairest, most pleasant & gay;
Sae bonnie was their blooming!
Their scent the air perfuming!
But now they are withered & a' wede away."

-Alison Rutherford Cockburn
(17121794)

   

Sarcococca hookeriana var humilis (sometimes just S. humilis) is in most regards the twin of S. ruscifolia, except that instead of growing four to six feet high S. hookeriana var humilis grows only to a foot or a foot & a half, two feet in time if never sheered.

This native to the western Himalayas wants organically rich soil. It's hardy to minus ten degrees Fahrenheit. It makes a restrained slow-spreading groundcover for the shade garden, & even tolerates a bit of droughtiness if it has to, though it should be regularly watered its first year in order to establish a wide root system.

A mature clump produces suckers & reproduces along stolons, so that it will slowly spread over an area easily reaching three feet wide, though it can be kept to a more restricted area if suckers are removed & the shrub sheered each spring for increased compactness.

The slim, pointed, shiny green leaves have a year-round changelessness, though leaves will have poor color if the shrublets get too much sun. Dwarf Fragrant Sweetbox, like other sweetboxes, stand among the best shade evergreens for reliable flowers & berries in those areas with little sunlight. Really only Aucuba is as reliable for similar conditions, & that gets so enormous, & requires separate male & female plant to fruit, so that aucubas don't fit into small shade-gardens as readily.

Starting in February & throughout late winter, the little shrubs are covered with tiny creamy-white tubular flowers that release sufficient perfume to really spice up a shadilly enclosed garden. Ours are planted at the entry to a shaded corridor-garden between house & garage, an area that holds in the perfume very nicely.

The shrub is self-pollinating. The male flowers have pink anthers; the female flowers have two styles. Flowers are followed by purple-black berries which add considerable ornamental value.

   



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