Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Horticultural Interpreter.
Dwarf sweet box (Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis) is a low-growing evergreen shrub that blooms in late winter or very early spring. The flowers are small, white and very fragrant. In cool weather, this scent is hard to detect but on a mild day—a not infrequent occurrence recently—the air around it fills with a sweet, slightly spicy aroma.
Native to China, it has been grown in the gardens of Europe and America since the mid-19th century and, in addition to its fragrance, is much prized for its attractive, glossy-green foliage and dense growth habit.
Too much exposure to sun, especially in the winter, will cause damage to the foliage and so it is best planted in a shady location. Here at Wave Hill, find it in such spots as the southwest corner of the Wild Garden and opposite the front of Glyndor Gallery, at the north end of the plantings there.