Vigorous deciduous shrub growing to 4 m tall, native to China, and also widely grown in Iran where it is known as Ice Flower and is a common motif in traditional Persian poetry, literature, and music. Not what you’d call a standout in the garden for most of the year, this shrub comes into its own in winter as delicate, waxy, translucent yellow flowers form along each branch. (Hence the name Chimonanthus from the Greek cheimon meaning winter and anthos meaning flower). These flowers are not dramatic looking but are so strongly scented they will perfume your whole garden. Branches can also be cut for vases.
Much scientific research has been undertaken, especially in China, on the medicinal (especially anti-fungal) properties of the Wintersweet. The flowers have been shown to contain antioxidants and antibacterial substances as well as phenolic compounds able to stimulate and strengthen the immune and cardiovascular system, counteract inflammation and the action of free radicals and show an expectorant action useful in case of cough and phlegm. The flowers have been traditionally used as a folk medicine in China for treating measles, coughs, tonsillitis and pharyngitis. An infused oil of the flowers used externally harnesses the soothing and antioxidant properties of wintersweet to fight redness and skin irritations.
An essential oil of the flowers is used in cosmetics, perfumery and aromatherapy. The flowers are used to flavour herbal teas, and are also added to potpourri mixtures and used to scent linen. The wood, after soaking in water, polishes to a brilliant black finish.
Caution – seeds are toxic.
Wintersweet enjoys full sun (required to ripen its wood for good flowering), and prefers a moist, fertile, well-drained soil. Reasonably drought hardy once established but prefers regular watering in a dry summer. Cut down some of the oldest stems almost ground level each year to ensure new, healthy growth and flowers. Frost hardy.
Certified organic plant in PB5 50 – 70cm high
Photo: Plant – Kahikatea farm, flowers – https://www.flickr.com/photos/_christine_s/49402015846/