Fragrant shrubs enhance even the most visually stunning gardens. They beckon passersby to stop and smell the lilacs, honeysuckle or whatever fragrant flowers in the shrub may be perfuming the breeze. Planted near windows, they act as natural indoor air fresheners. Fragrant shrubs come in all colors. Some of the most striking, however, are those that have white blooms in striking contrast to their green foliage.
Yellow forsythia's blooms are a common early sign of approaching spring. Many people, however, might be surprised to learn of white forsythia (Abeliophyllum distichum). A native of Korea, white forsythia is hardy in U.S. Hardiness Zones 5 through 8, to a minimum average temperature of -20 degrees F.
White forsythia is a relatively small shrub, standing 3 to 5 feet high and spreading up to 4 feet. Its purple buds open into white tubular blooms--occasionally blushed with pink--in March or April. Like yellow forsythia, it blooms before its leaves emerge. These otherwise non-showy shrubs are at their best when they bloom.
Plant white forsythia, advises the Missouri Botanical Garden, in full sun to part shade and average, moderately moist well-drained soil. The shrub is somewhat drought-resistant but suffers in prolonged wet periods. Shape by pruning immediately after the plants bloom.
Daphne 'Somerset' (Daphne x burkwoodii) is a low-growing, spreading shrub grown for its sweetly fragrant flowers and attractive mounding habit. Reaching 2 to 3 feet high with a spread of up to 5 feet, Daphne 'Somerset' is hardy to -20 degrees F (USDA Zone 5). Daphne is an early performer, blooming with spring bulbs in April and May. Creamy white to pale pink flowers appear in clusters. Dense bright green foliage remains through December. Small red fruit brings fall color.
Protect Daphne 'Somerset' from full sun and winter wind. Plant it in rich, sandy, well-drained pH-neutral soil. Good drainage is essential for this plant, says the Missouri Botanical Garden. If your soil is clay, plant Daphne in a raised bed to ensure it. Mulch plants in summer to keep their roots cool. Don't let the soil dry completely.
Sweet Pepperbush Hummingbird'
Sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia), reaching up to 12 feet, grows wild along swamps, bogs and stream banks of the eastern United States. The sweet pepperbush cultivar 'Hummingbird', however, is only 3 feet high with an equal spread. A good choice for small gardens, this densely branched shrub has glossy deep green leaves. Upright 8-inch cylinders of clove-scented white flowers appear in July and August, lasting up to six weeks.
Butterflies, hummingbirds and bees flock to the flowers. Autumn foliage is yellow and brown seed capsules stay on the plants throughout the winter. 'Hummingbird' likes full sun to partial shade and moist, well-drained soil. Pruning the oldest wood in winter will promote new spring growth and more vigorous bloom.