Fortunately, I still have a sense of humor, but I’m afraid even it’s fading fast. My common sense is debatable, and I’m so color blind I can hardly tell green from brown. My wife tells me I’m nearly stone deaf, and I can barely smell the most fragrant of flowers in the garden. This is not the place to discuss whether my deafness is a matter of convenience or not, but with these infirmities it seems a wonder I can survive from day to day, much less manage a garden.
Through the winter there are blooms that must be potently fragrant to attract the few pollinators that hang around in the cold, but the sun must be shining and the day completely still for me to catch a whiff of strongly scented witch hazels (Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’ in February, above) and winter daphnes (Daphne odora ‘Aureo-marginata’, below). In late spring the stinking carrion flowers (such as Sauromatum venosum) attract flies by the dozens to their dung scented blooms, but I can’t smell sweet or sour, except for the sweet vanilla scented viburnums of mid April.
There are two fragrances unforgettably etched in my memory, the sickly sweet of hyacinths that I have smelled too often and for too long in close proximity while working at indoor garden shows in February, and the pleasantly fragrant viburnums, Koreanspice (Viburnum carlesii, below) and Burkwood (Viburnum x burkwoodii). To me, the blooms of the two viburnums are practically indistinguishable in scent and appearance, though Koreanspice flowers a week earlier in April and are perhaps a bit larger. Both are splendid plants, fragrant or not.
Burkwood (below) is a tall, rangy shrub while Koreanspice is smaller and more compact, but in my garden both grow vigorously from the edge of the forest in no more than a half day’s sun. No care is needed for either, though Burkwood would likely be improved by periodic pruning to keep its branching more compact. For two weeks in April the fragrance in the rear garden is unmistakable, with the scent drawing the gardener for a closer sniff.