02 March 2011

Sorry Cocoa Say What?

The white forsythia [10.3.2009] and crocus are usually the first in the garden to awake in spring, announcing the beginning of a new growing season. This year there is a new addition to the early show. The Sweetbox (sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis) began blooming recently, beating the white forsythia by about a week.

While beginning my garden journey many years ago, I began scouring garden catalogs to learn as much as possible about the multitude of nursery plants available for Virginia. Many were new and strange to me after moving south 2 zones from New York. This one with the weird name sounded interesting - evergreen, shade, early, and fragrant.

Two years ago, I purchased two sarcococca (not sure of the plural) from Lower Marlboro Nursery and planted. Now in its third year, the plant began producing fragrant flowers last week, and finally began showing signs that it is ready to begin spreading.

Lower Marlboro Nursery, 60 miles away (95 km) in Maryland is another story itself. The nursery was essentially one person (Mary) who's mission was to promote and provide native species for the small gardening community who could not find them elsewhere. She propagated, grew, and sold them from her front 'yard' forest. I was a yearly customer. Last year, she decided to call it quits, since the supply and variety of natives is now more bountiful from mainstream garden suppliers - mission accomplished. (Sarcococca is not native here, but she sold it.)

This particular sarcococca is native to the Himalayas, and spreads slowly so I guess it is not at home in my 'invasives' garden. Dark, glossy evergreen leaves are only bothered by an occasional yellowing at the tips and are not harmed by any pests. The tiny flowers go almost unnoticed- resembling shards of hanging fingernails. When they came out last week, I am sure the squirrels and cardinals were amused - me on my hands and knees attempting a sniff. But yesterday, the blossoms became fragrant. They resemble lilacs to my nose. I left plenty of space to spread into a ground cover and continue to patiently wait.

For The Record:
  • Heavy clay soil with occasional organic amendments
  • Full shade, average water
  • No pests
  • No fertilizer


flwrjane said...
Lovely. Unknown to me until now. Am looking forward to a complete growing season with you.

Janet said...
I have a row of Sarcococca in my new SC home. The flowers are opening little by little and I am thrilled to see it. I too have heavy clay we are near Georgia) and mine is in a little bit of sun! So far so good!
Swimray said...
We need to get our soils corrected. (I only have so much natural organic material to spread around, - I have more garden than organic matter available.)
Janet said...
I know what you mean, I have two compost bins and a worm bin. Sometimes I get soil from the forest floor when I plant something new....one of the bennies of living in the woods.
J.C. said...
Great to know of another nice shade-loving plant.
Les said...
Thank you for stopping by my Bloom Day post. The squirrels and cardinals get a similar show here as well. I am fond of getting down on the ground to take my photos, God knows what the people think.