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Sarcococca Christmas Box


One of the best shade tolerant shrubs for planting under trees and in similar situations. Sarcococca species originate in China and the Himalayas and are related to the common box, buxus. They are slow-growing plants that spread by suckering shoots gradually forming low-growing mounds of evergreen foliage. The dark green leaves are slightly rippled and the small insignificant flowers produce a rich scent. They also grow well in shade but will also grow in full sun if the roots are kept consistently moist.


I find Sarcococca grows very well in sunshine , as long as you mulch your plants well during winter and this will keep your plants in good condition even in a very dry smell like last year. Its best to plant a group of these plants together, preferably close to patios and front doors I love using green and white in gardens, particularly in those awkward shady corners, or under the dappled light from overhanging trees. Reliable evergreens are always the basis of my planting and if I had to pick just one dwarf evergreen shrub it would always be Sarcococca confusa, the Christmas box.  This lovely little shrub forms a dense clump of suckering stems reaching 60-80cm (2 – 2.5 feet) in height.  The small, shining evergreen leaves are deep holly green and are gently waved, catching the light from all directions.


 Sarcococca confusa never gets too tall, never needs pruning (although it’s great for cutting for floral decoration). It grows on clay and chalk and is excellent in shade.  In mid to late winter tiny white flowers appear in the leaf axils, they may not be showy, but they will fill the garden with their powerful sweet fragrance. 


So that’s two dwarf shrubs put together to create a wonderful planting solution, so what shall we add? You can’t go wrong with one of the new Hellebores winter bells.  It flowers for about 6 months and I just love the dark green architectural foliage. The flower stems quickly rise to produce elegant nodding cups of pure white, with a hint of green, clustered beneath a ruff of small green leaves.  Hellebores are long-term perennials that will delight year after year

I like to plant sarcococca with another of my favourite evergreens: Euonymus fortunei ‘Silver Queen’.  This had deep green leaves, variegated with sage and irregularly edged with creamy white.  Where it catches direct sun the leaf margins may flush pink in winter.  It has a compact, spreading habit and makes excellent ground cover. If you plant it against a wall or fence it will make an excellent short climber, up to 3 metres (10 feet) or so.  This is another low maintenance shrub that works hard to earn its keep.

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