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Chimonanthus Praecox or Wintersweet If you want a unique looking winter garden that stands out from the traditional evergreens Chimonanthus Praecox, also known as Wintersweet, is a wonderful choice. Wintersweet is a deciduous, winter flowering shrub that is native to China. It is a vigorous plant with a bushy shape growing up to 6 metres tall. Wintersweet can also be trained along a wall and enjoys the extra warmth and protection when planted against a south facing wall.
The most impressive feature of Chimonanthus Praecox is its flowers. Wintersweet blooms in the winter, bringing nice colour and interest to your winter garden for weeks. The flowers themselves are gorgeous nodding blooms with a ring of soft yellow exterior petals and a centre ring of translucent petals with dark red streaks. Another great feature of these flowers is their wonderful, sweet, spicy fragrance that will fill your entire garden.
Chimonanthus praecox has rough, lanceolate, green leaves. Much like the flowers these leaves have a spicy, sweet aroma when crushed. Just before dropping in the autumn the leaves turn a soft yellow.
Wintersweet is showy in winter but often seems a little lacklustre in spring when other plants are beginning to bloom. To offset this early spring flower bulbs may be planted around the shrub blooming after Wintersweet’s flowers have gone by but before its leaves are fully grown.
Caring for Chimonanthus praecox is simple. This shrub can handle full sun or partial shade and adapts to acidic or alkaline soil. It grows best in an area with good drainage and is fairly hardy, withstanding temperatures as low as -23° Celsius.
Pruning should be done after it blooms to remove older branches to keep the shrub from becoming too crowded. Old plants may also be pruned heavily if blooming decreases in order to rejuvenate the plant. It should be trimmed no shorter than 30 cm from the ground.
Chimonanthus praecox has been grown and used in China for over 1000 years and today is still one of the most widely cultivated ornamental shrubs. It has been widely used in Chinese folk medicine and in the flavouring of teas. Also its renowned fragrance has been used in perfumes, cosmetics, and to scent linens by processing the flowers into essential oils.