Top tips for keeping that much loved Christmas plant alive. We've tested a plant sensor and mixed it up with some good old gardening knowledge...
Want to put down roots and make friends? Take some tips from the Chimonanthus praecox
Anyone who has ever joined a new school at an unusual stage can remember that awkward moment of standing in front of a class of unfamiliar faces looking at you curiously. Likewise, most people can remember being one of those curious faces assessing the exotic new arrival.
Chimonanthus praecox was introduced to Britain when Lord Coventry received it from China in 1766. Like many a scared new child, its flowers are small and solitary and the plant, like a new child facing a class of strangers, is Vulnerable (that’s official, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List Criteria).
Like that new kid, Chimonanthus praecox can take time to settle in – in fact, it can take up to 2 years to put down roots. It won’t bloom immediately. In fact, plants grown from seed can take 12-14 years to flower.
But flower it will, and once it’s settled in its yellow blooms will delight with their heavy scent throughout the winter – the flowers have been used widely to flavour herbal teas, add to pot pourri mixes and even as a Chinese equivalent to the lavender bag, to scent linen.
It doesn’t take long in a school before new classmates become popular characters with lots of friendly nicknames. Chimonanthus praecox is no different. It’s now a familiar plant in British gardens, known by names such as Wintersweet and Japanese allspice. In fact, it’s so prevalent that it’s easy to forget that it was ever (just 248 years ago) an unfamiliar character, new to the UK.
If you’d like to introduce a Chimonantus praecox to your garden, look for the Luteus or Grandiflorus cultivars, which are disease resistant varieties with larger flowers.