Fragrant Mountain Sweet BoxSarcococca hookeriana var.humilis 'Sarsid 2' (PP# 19,951)
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Sarcococca hookeriana var.humilis 'Sarsid 2' (PP# 19,951)
Outdoor Growing zone
Partial Sun, Shade
The Fragrant Mountain Sweet Box is a wonderful low-growing evergreen shrub that forms dense clumps of slender branches covered in glossy, dark-green, leathery leaves. Through the winter months tiny white flowers along the stems release a rich, sweet fragrance. These are followed by black berries popular with wild birds. This plant is very shade-tolerant, and ideal for shady beds, slopes, and in woodlands. Trim it into a low hedge for edging, where it closely resembles boxwood. Very easy to grow and perfect for those dry, deep shade areas that are so hard to fill.
Hardy in zone 6 Fragrant Mountain Sweet Box is the hardiest variety of these plants. It should be planted in partial shade to full shade, and once established tolerates even deep shade. It grows in ordinary well-drained soils and it’s drought resistant once established. Space plants 2 or 3 feet apart for ground cover. It can be trimmed as needed in spring, after flowering, and benefits from mulch and regular watering when young.
Shade and gardens go together, especially if you have an older garden, with large trees and shrubs, or woodland areas. So the need for shade-tolerant plants is always high, especially for simple ground cover plants to carpet those bare areas that shade inevitably creates. When seeking plants like that, you won’t have to travel to the mythical land of Jambudvipa, and search on the Fragrant Mountain, home of Buddhist gods. Simply choose the Fragrant Mountain Sweet Box, although you might indeed think you have entered Paradise when you smell the exotic fragrance of this attractive shrub. Flowering in the dark days of late winter, a delicious aroma will drift across your garden from small flowers nestling between the neat, glossy leaves of this plant. It thrives in shady areas, and even tolerates the dreaded ‘dry shade’ that is a death-sentence to so many plants. Solve your shade problems with an attractive green carpeting of this tough and durable evergreen.
The Fragrant Mountain Sweet Box is a low-growing evergreen shrub that will in time reach 2 or even 3 feet tall, but is easily kept lower with occasional trimming. It spreads slowly outwards, mainly by sending up new growth from underground stems, so that it covers at least 3 feet and can develop to cover a wider area of 6 feet, or even more. Because the new stems come up close to the base, and the spread is relatively slow, it isn’t invasive or danger to surrounding areas. Instead it creates a dense, weed-proof and attractive carpet across the ground.
The slender stems are semi-horizontal and closely arranged along the leaves. Each leaf is about 3 inches long, a slender oval tapering to a point, leathery, with a smooth glossy surface. They are a rich dark-green, holding that coloring all year round. Anytime between late fall and late winter, depending on your local climate and seasonal weather, clusters of small white flowers open along the stems. These are partly hidden among the leaves, but they give themselves away by the rich fragrance they release. Strong but not overpowering, it is a sweet fragrance that is perhaps like honey, spreading through the garden on the brief sunny days of winter. The flowers are followed by black berries that are very popular with birds.
This is a top-rated ground cover plant, ideal for shady beds. Grow it under tall trees, in the shade of large shrubs, or at the foot of a north-facing wall. Plant it on slopes, or the levels of terracing. Use it as a low hedge around your beds or along a shady pathway. Space plants 2 to 3 feet apart for ground cover, or 18 inches apart for low trimmed hedges. It can also be grown in outdoor containers from zone 7 on, ideal for placing on a shady terrace or in a city courtyard. Often overlooked for more common ground covers, sweet box is a tough and reliable plant that should be used much more.
The Fragrant Mountain Sweet Box is a very hardy variety, growing well in zone 6 and all the way into warmer zones like zone 9.
Plant your Fragrant Mountain Sweet Box bushes in partial or full shade, particularly with afternoon shade. Too much sun will make the leaves look dull instead of glossy, and reduce the lushness of its growth. It also grows well in full and even deep levels of shade, such as beneath evergreens. It grows in almost all soils, preferring moisture, especially when young. However, established plants tolerate dry shade and poorer soils, although mulch every year or two will produce a much thicker covering on poor soil.
You can grow this plant with almost no attention at all, but when planting in drier areas it will benefit from frequent watering for a few seasons, until really well established. By then it will be drought tolerant. To keep it lower and bushier, trim in spring after flowering – some mulch added at the same time is beneficial. The Fragrant Mountain Sweet Box isn’t bothered by pests or diseases, and left alone by deer.
Sweet Box, Sarcococca, are relatives of true boxwood (Buxus) that grow in China and south Asia. All of them are useful garden plants, and similar in appearance, with Sarcococca hookeriana var.humilis being the lowest growing and best for ground cover. Sidhu & Sons Nursery, near Mission, British Columbia, began as a hobby nursery and has grown into an important grower and breeder. Back in 1999 Gurjit Sidhu planted some seeds of Sarcococca hookeriana var.humilis, and raised 2,000 seedlings. He looked for especially sturdy plants, and chose one that had very good leaf color and broader leaves than normal. It was vigorous but stayed low, and suckered well to develop as a ground cover. He named it ‘Sarsid 2’ and was granted a patent on it in 2009. The nursery released it as Fragrant Mountain™, one of two sweet box in their ‘Himalayan Wonders’ series.
By filling your beds with ground covers you add another visual layer, making your garden much richer looking, and more developed. For those difficult shady spots we highly recommend the Fragrant Mountain Sweet Box, but order your plants very soon, because we only have a limited number of plants, and they will soon all be gone.