PNW Landscape Plant Guide

brought to you by the plant geeks at Calendula Farm

Sweet Box (Sarcococca spp.)

You’ve likely seen this evergreen shrub around the PNW plenty of times but it never registered as anything special. You’ve also likely smelled its powerful, knee-bucklingly beautiful, jasmine-like scent in the middle of winter and searched unsuccessfully for its source. There are hedgerows of them around the Univ. of Puget Sound campus. Walk the campus in February and you’ll find them easily.

This is such an excellent plant for the upper left corner of the country as it thrives in shade, even dry shade, and it provides a heady, summer-like perfume at a time of year when we really really need a break from the grey wet. There are three types: S. humilis gets about 18 inches tall. S. confusa gets about 4 ft. S. ruscifolia gets about 5 ft. tall. They all have small lance-shaped dark glossy green leaves year-round. Around February they flush with hundreds of tiny feathery white blooms layered between leaves. These turn to black or dark red berries later in the year and are appreciated by birds.

Now is a great time to get them in the ground so you can take a hit off ’em in a couple of months. We like to plant them near an entrance to a home as an anonymous evergreen space-filler in the shade of a porch covering. When they drop their anonymity in winter with their blooms and perfume, you will learn to appreciate them the rest of the year – knowing what’s to come.