‘Purple Stem’ Sweet Box, Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna*, is now tasseled with sweetly fragrant blossom on the woodland bank behind the bench by the Druid Bridge below the Cascade at Nostell Priory. Each blossom has just two styles and one central stigma; with a scent like that, who needs petals?
The generic name, Sarcococca, is from the Greek, ‘sarc’ meaning flesh and ‘kokkos’, berry.
The species name honours botanist Joseph Dalton Hooker (1817-1911) who collected this winter-flowering shrub on a plant-hunting expedition in southern China. Hooker was a friend and confidant of Charles Darwin; Benedict Cumberbatch appears as Hooker in Creation, the biographical movie about Darwin. This weekend he appears in the final episode of Sherlock, so perhaps he’ll now be able to get back to playing Victorian botanists, which he does so well.
The newly planted Sweet Box by the bench should spread by suckers to form a thicket a metre in height.
* I guess that it’s possible that this is a garden hybrid, closely related to S. hookeriana.
After a week of wintry and sometimes very windy weather, it’s good to be walking through the parkland under blue skies with low winter sun picking out the textures on the trunks of the old beeches and oaks. It’s also picking out the bark-like layers in the sandstone of the old quarry in the Menagerie garden.
In the walled garden the first snowdrops have appeared and the winter aconites that we first saw opening midweek are continuing to come into flower.
In the shady shelter of the far northeast-facing wall of the garden, Timperley Early (right) is one of the few rhubarb varieties to have started sprouting leaves but Victoria is just ahead of it, with some of the leaves already opening out.