OYO Design Blog

If you’ve been to one of my presentations, you may have noticed the gardens are almost always photographed in spring, summer or fall. But that doesn’t mean I ignore winter when I design a garden!

In fact, a garden should honor every season by including at least one plant that captures its unique beauty. In warmer climates, the characteristics I look for in a great winter specimen are berries, blooms or fragrance.

Sweet Box

That’s why I love Sweet Box (Sarcococca ruscifolia). With blooms, berries AND fragrance it’s a winter standout. Sweetly-scented, small white flowers appear in late fall and are followed by shiny blue berries. To top it off, it is low water and evergreen, so it not only looks good year round, but thrives in drought-adapted landscapes.

Now let’s talk design!

Incorporating Sweet Box into your garden is easy. Its evergreen leaves and manageable size (4-6’) make it an excellent foundation plant around the front or back of the house. Be aware that its growth pattern tends to be a little untamed. Sweet Box can develop a few long branches that shoot out in all directions ahead of the pack, so be patient while this plant grows up and expect to do some shaping.

It prefers a spot that is at least partly shady, and makes a gorgeous, evergreen backdrop along a fence in a shade garden. Bonus pick if you like Sweet Box but want something smaller – its little cousin Sarcococca hookeriana makes a great, low mounding ground cover.

But my absolute FAVORITE spot for this workhorse shrub is by the front door. What better way to get a jolt of happiness every time you walk in and out of the house than to admire its delicate flowers and small that heavenly fragrance? Sweet Box is welcome bright spot during the greyest months of the year.

Bonus Plant! Berberis darwinii

If you’ve got more space, consider Darwin’s Barberry. I snapped this photo at the San Francisco Botanical Garden in February, where it really lit up the winter landscape. Visit their site for more photos and information.

If you’d like articles like these delivered to your inbox twice monthly, sign up for my newsletter here.















↑ Top of Page