January walk through London might be punctuated by an unexpected sweet floral scent. This likely comes from a rather inconspicuous evergreen plant called sweet box, or Sarcococca.
Native to India and China, where it grows in the shadows of larger trees, it also grows very well under the deep shade of London’s plane trees and is dotted throughout the parks and gardens of the capital.
While its small white flowers are far from showy, its scent often travels for several metres. So for low-maintenance winter interest in your own garden or balcony, you can’t go far wrong with Sarcococca.
Central London has been warm enough in recent years to grow things that might not survive in most of the UK.
One majestic example is the south Australian mimosa tree, or Acacia dealbata. It’s another evergreen and this week it will be coming into full bloom with masses of lemon yellow pom poms atop fern-like leaves.
Find your nearest in a public park using the interactive map at treetalk.co.uk, plotting nearly all of London’s trees.
Also flowering now are the Japanese quince, its bare stems plastered with vermilion flowers; the winter cherry, one of the earliest flowering cherries; and witch-hazel (Hamamelis) with curious citrus peel-like scented flowers.
What to watch
This week is Seed Week, an initiative started by The Gaia Foundation to draw awareness to seed sovereignty between gardeners and growers in the face of climate change.
Its mission is to preserve and promote small-scale seed producers and the myriad varieties available, many of which are being lost as larger seed producers choose to focus on the most popular crops.
To celebrate Seed Week, the foundation has released a short film, A Quiet Revolution, featuring members of the London Freedom Seed Bank volunteering to save and distribute seeds of edible plants adapted for our urban environment. To view and learn more visit gaiafoundation.org
And don’t miss Sir David Attenborough’s The Green Planet, airing Sundays at 7pm on BBC One and streaming on iPlayer, which documents the incredible adaptations of plants around the world. If you thought you knew your monstera, think again.