Category Archives: attracting birds

Winter’s Fragrant Sweetbox (Sarcococca)

sweetbox blooming in January, Scented Sarcococca, sweetbox, sweet box, Sarcococca ruscifolia, Sarcococca confusa, Sarcococca hookeriana, Sarcococca humilis, Christmas box, winter vanilla plant, January bloom, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Climbing the stairs to a friend’s front door & ringing the bell, I wait. DP takes time answering. & I’m happy with that. There’s a sweet smell in the air. It is just delightful.

There aren’t any blooms to be seen. Most of DP’s garden has died to the ground for the winter. All, except an unassuming evergreen shrub & a couple of sword ferns.

It turns out this plain shrub is strategically planted beside the porch. There’s a clue in its name: sweetbox. The scent is lovely…
and once established, the shrub thrives in the dry shade of the house foundations. It’s happy here & it makes visitors happy, too.

sweetbox blooming in January, Scented Sarcococca, sweetbox, sweet box, Sarcococca ruscifolia, Sarcococca confusa, Sarcococca hookeriana, Sarcococca humilis, Christmas box, winter vanilla plant, January bloom, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Sarcococca
(easier read than said)
… has tiny winter blossoms that hide, protected, under arching branches. The flowers that dangle below the leaves are pretty but far less astonishing than their perfume. The fragrance lingers in the mild winter air.

This clever plant has both male & female flowers. Any wayward insect seeking shelter under the canopy has lucked out. There’s a feast included! No need to wander further to feed. They party in place & the flowers get pollinated. Later on, birds enjoy the cover and feast on the berries. Sweet box is not only clever– it’s also considerate of others.

sweetbox blooming in January, Scented Sarcococca, sweetbox, sweet box, Sarcococca ruscifolia, Sarcococca confusa, Sarcococca hookeriana, Sarcococca humilis, Christmas box, winter vanilla plant, January bloom, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Usually, fragrant plants are left alone by deer. Sarcococca is an unusual case. This specimen flourishes because deer steer clear of high traffic areas. In a quiet woodland setting, deer take time to enjoy a regular browse. The Sarcococca in my yard was nibbled until I caged it for protection.

sweetbox blooming in January, Scented Sarcococca, sweetbox, sweet box, Sarcococca ruscifolia, Sarcococca confusa, Sarcococca hookeriana, Sarcococca humilis, Christmas box, winter vanilla plant, January bloom, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

CH, from garden club, says she’s planted a sweetbox at each entrance to her home. She also grows a small variety in a pot in her shaded courtyard. When it begins to bloom in January, she brings the pot into the house to enjoy the heavenly perfume.
Smart gardener!

It’s not much to look at, but I understand why Sarcococca is honoured with the valuable garden real estate beside the front door. Right now, in the dreariest time of year, such a fragrant surprise is a gift.

-30-

Other January gems in the Pacific Northwest:

Canada’s Dogwood Tree

It’s a tale of 2 trees…

Dogwood Eddie's White Wonder tree in bloom, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

On the very southern coastal region of BC is our native Pacific Dogwood (Cornus nuttallii).  So admired that it’s honoured as our provincial flower.

Across the continent, Eastern Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) is native to the southernmost tip of Ontario.

Dogwood Eddie's White Wonder tree in bloom, Cornus controversa 'Eddie's White Wonder' Cornus nuttallii 'Eddies White Wonder', garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Both species often suffer from anthracnose fungus that disfigures leaves & causes twig & branch dieback.  Ontario’s native dogwood is considered ‘at risk.’

The answer? A genuinely Canadian fix: combine them.

Enter H.M. Eddie (Henry Matheson Eddie).  A nurseryman in BC’s Fraser Valley who got a kick out of creating new varieties of any number of plants.  His 1945 success, ‘Eddie’s White Wonder,’ is the combo of the Pacific & the Eastern dogwoods.

Dogwood Eddie's White Wonder tree in bloom, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Eddie’s dogwood is pretty much disease-free!  Beyond that,

  • pollinators love the spring flowers
  • birds gorge on the berry clusters.
  • deer leave the tree alone (except the occasional buck needing to scratch his antlers – so trunk protection is needed.)
  • and fall leaf colour is another spectacle.

    Dogwood Eddie's White Wonder tree in bloom, Cornus controversa 'Eddie's White Wonder' Cornus nuttallii 'Eddies White Wonder', garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC Pacific Northwest
    photo by SVSeekins

It’s been such a triumphant landscape success that Eddie’s White Wonder was honoured as Vancouver’s Centennial tree...
and as one of my favourite trees to find blooming during our morning walks each April 🙂

-30-

Fernwood Snowdrop Meadow

How often do you stop mid-errand to admire a roadside garden?   I did just that the other day.

galanthus, snowdrops, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Cycling along Haultain in Fernwood, on the way to downtown Victoria, I’m caught off guard by a snowdrop meadow.  I pull over & take a closer look.

The meadow runs the whole outside length of the fenceline.  AND as it is a corner lot, so it runs along  Forbes street, too!  There was even a mini meadow on the wee boulevard right at the crosswalk. 🙂

galanthus, snowdrops, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

The patches of snowdrops are interspersed with patches of daffodils.  This winter meadow will morph into an early-spring meadow in another few weeks.

On closer inspection, I recognize Calendula (Pot Marigold), too.  Even with our summer droughts, they’ll flower all summer & well into the fall!

galanthus, snowdrops, garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

All three are deer resistant.

The calendula will self-seed a crop for next year as well as feed the birds.

These folks put care & attention into the city boulevard beside their property.  (Can you see him painting his fence in the distance?)

In my mind, this meadow has so much more going for it than the regular grass lawn.  I’ll bet the bees & other beneficial insects like it a whole lot more, too.

-30-

other snowdrop patches I admire: