Courtyards in February
As the courtyard walls warm up think about how to use the reflected warmth to bring out the scent in plants. In my courtyard I have a plant of wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox).
What a wonderful smell it produces which can be detected at about 100 yards (what’s that in metric?). So if you want a winter sweet, find one and plant it now for next year. In addition, the great thing about it is that it can be kept small by good pruning so it doesn’t get to the size of a tree.
For something smaller, what about lily-of-the-valley? Such an underestimated plant. Pure white spikes of scented flowers, such a pleasure. It’s still not too late to plant this to give a show this year.
If you obtain some crowns, spread roots out wide in shallow holes about one inch (2.5cm) deep and cover with soil.
If you have winter jasmine on the walls it should be pruned after it’s flowered, which will be any time now.
Another plant to look out for which does well in a sheltered spot is Rhododendron praecox. Before you throw up your hands in horror at having a big Rhodo taking up space, this Rhododendron praecox has masses of pink flowers produced at this time of year.
The plant is not evergreen but is a semi dwarf plant which produces clusters of blossom on leafless stems - obviously the leaves are produced later on which then form a good ‘filler’ for the border for the rest of the year.
Oh and incidentally, depending on how good your sense of smell is, the leaves are aromatic when crushed! Another subtle scent for the courtyard.