Keys to Success
The quest for plants which hold up throughout all four seasons can be long and frustrating. Many plants are not looking their best during the dog days of summer, while others shed leaves or retreat below ground during the winter. Sweet box or Sarcococca is one plant which can take it all.
Undoubtedly the most popular and most cold hardy is the dwarf Himalayan sweet box, S. hookeriana var. humilis, often listed simply as S. humilis. This tough, evergreen, woody ground cover (to 16” tall) can quickly spread by underground stems to form dense weed-blocking mats. Like all of the sweet boxes the flowers are only marginally attractive as they are mostly hidden by the glossy 3” leaves. There is no hiding the heady fragrance in late winter or early spring when the flowers open though. The sweet smell wafts through the garden leading the unknowing on a scavenger hunt for the perpetrator. Small, blue-black fruits follow the flowers over the summer. The Himalayan sweet box, S. hookeriana var. hookeriana, is a much larger shrub growing to the relatively giant size of 4'-5’. It does sucker like its diminutive relative, but at a much more restrained rate. In other respects, it is very similar to the dwarf form as is the variety digyna which has narrowly pointed leaves.
The ruscus-leaved sweet box, S. ruscifolia, does not spread like its Himalayan cousins, but is evergreen and flowers in the early spring. The 3' wide and tall shrub is composed of arching branches which bear small (2”) pointed, dark, glossy green leaves. The fragrant flowers are followed by dark maroon red fruits. This shrub, along with S. saligna or willow-leaved sweet box, is somewhat tender and is probably best in warmer coastal areas or in protected spots near a wall. The willow-leaved sweet box, as its name implies, has long 5" narrow leaves on its arching stems. The shrub grows to about 3' tall and can sucker to nearly twice as wide. The winter flowers are a bit greenish and belie their name by failing to be fragrant, but do win marks for their largish (1/2”) purple-black fruits. The only other sweet box regularly found in the nursery trade in the United States is the very hardy S. confusa. This sweet box lives up to expectations with exceptionally fragrant late winter flowers on a non-suckering shrub that grows to over 5' tall. The black fruits are often found still on the shrub when it flowers the next year.
Culture for sweet box is fairly simple. They all like a moist, well-drained soil which is high in organic matter. Full to partial shade is the optimum although they will grow in full sun. Full sun situations will almost invariably result in yellowing of the leaves though. Sweet box rarely needs pruning, but if necessary for shape, prune after flowering in mid-spring. – Mark Weathington, Assistant Director and Curator of Plant Collections
Botanical names: Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis, S. ruscifolia, S. confusa, and S. saligna
Common name: Sweet box
Fruit color: Bluish-black
Fruiting period: Summer to fall
Type: Evergreen ground cover or shrub depending on type
Size: 10" to 16" tall by 36" wide for ground cover types, 3'-5' tall and wide for shrubby types
Exposure: Full shade to part sun
Keys to Success
When to plant: Spring or fall
How to plant: Dig a hole twice as wide as the root ball with sloping sides no deeper than the depth of the container the shrub comes in
Soil: Moist, well-drained, organic soil
Watering: One to two times per week depending on the weather until established
When to prune: Early spring
When to fertilize: Late winter or early spring with compost, well rotted manure or other organic amendments
Suggestions for your landscape: Use as foundation plantings or tough ground covers. Plant along walkways where the exceptional winter fragrance can be appreciated.
The new Arboretum T-shirt will be available in December. The new design features Styrax japonicus on either a navy blue or gray shirt. Shirts can be purchased for $15.00 at Arboretum events and in the Visitor Center or Ruby C. McSwain Education Center. – Barbara Kennedy, Volunteer Coordinator
As a special benefit to our members, we are pleased to offer you two more discounts to local businesses:
Barefoot Paths Nursery
224 Henley Road
Chapel Hill, NC 27517
20% off any regular price item
1208 Farmers Market Drive
Raleigh, NC 27603
10% off any regular price item
For a complete list of benefit providers, please refer to the Benefit Providers list on our Web site. – Autumn Keck, Associate Director of Membership and Fund-raising Events
Cedrus deodara 'Glacier Blue' – dwarf Deodar cedar
Pinus taeda 'Nana' – dwarf loblolly pine
Pinus armandii – Chinese white pine
Klein-Pringle White Garden
Acer palmatum [Dissectum Atropurpureum Group] – red lace-leaf Japanese maple
Cedrus atlantica 'Glauca Pendula' – weeping blue Atlas cedar
Lagerstroemia 'Natchez' – hybrid crepe myrtle
Acer palmatum 'Sango kaku' – coral-bark Japanese maple
Lagerstroemia fauriei – Japanese crepe myrtle
Phyllostachys nigra – black bamboo
Castanopsis cuspidata var. sieboldii 'Angyo Yellow' – variegated Japanese chinquapin
Cleyera japonica 'Variegata' – variegated Japanese cleyera
Mahonia ×media 'Underway' – grapeholly
Cupressus arizonica 'Limelight' – yellow Arizona cypress
Daphniphyllum macropodum – false daphne
Corylus avellana 'Contorta' – Harry Lauder's walking stick
Gardenia augusta – "goldfish" Cape jessamine
Camellia 'Winter's Charm' – Ackerman hybrid camellia
Chimonanthus praecox – fragrant wintersweet
Ilex cornuta 'Sunrise' – golden Chinese holly
Mahonia ×media 'Winter Sun' – grapeholly
Other Areas of the Arboretum
Acer negundo 'Winter Lightning' – yellow-twig box-elder – W11
Callicarpa acuminata – Mexican beautyberry – W60
Camellia 'Carolina Moonmist' – Cochran hybrid camellia – E43b
Camellia oleifera – tea-oil camellia – P06
Cercis canadensis subsp. texensis 'Traveller' – weeping Texas redbud – E43a and C13
Nandina domestica 'Leucocarpa' – yellow-berried heavenly bamboo – E08, T04, W10 , and W05
Prunus mume 'Trumpet' – pink Japanese flowering apricot – E43b
Salix 'Flame' – willow – Su7
Ulmus alata 'Lace Parasol' – weeping winged elm – E40
This show is free. Visit often. – Nancy Doubrava, Interpretive Specialist
Plantsmen's Tour – December 4, 2007 (Tuesday) – 1:00 PM – Free
"Conifers for Color and Texture" led by Mark Weathington, Assistant Director and Curator of Plant Collections. Evergreens are the backbone of the garden. They provide structure and weight to a landscape throughout the year. Learn about some conifers that provide year round interest at the Arboretum suitable for every situation from rock gardening to screening the neighbor. Needles of brilliant blue, screaming yellow, and cool gray are only the beginning.
Holiday Wreath Workshop – December 6, 2007 (Thursday) – 1:00 PM, 3:00 PM, and 7:00 PM (three sessions) – $35.00 for members, $45.00 for nonmembers (fee is per person per session)
Decorate your front door for the holidays with a designer wreath you made at the JC Raulston Arboretum. Hands-on instruction will be provided and all participants will learn to make and will create a wreath of their own to take home. All materials needed for this workshop will be provided including a vast assortment of greens for your wreath, however, participants are encouraged to bring items for their wreaths or to share. Please bring garden sheers.
Poinsettia Open House – December 9, 2007 (Sunday) – 1:00 PM-5:00 PM – Free
NC State Floriculture is part of a national poinsettia program that tests poinsettia cultivars to determine which ones are best for consumers and for producers. You will have a chance to see these cultivars yourself and vote for your favorites. Over 110 different cultivars of poinsettias – including new experimental cultivars – will be on display. Stop by to see the famous 9' tall poinsettia tree. Enjoy poinsettia gardens and decorated poinsettias. Help us decide which poinsettias are North Carolina's favorites by voting for your favorite poinsettias.
At 2:00 PM, enjoy our "Holiday Landscape Plants" tour featuring many of the plants at the Arboretum that are enjoyable indoors and outside during the holiday season.
Please visit the "Calendar of Events" section on the JCRA Web site for a complete listing of our upcoming programs.
Several new videos were added to the Members Only section on the Arboretum's Web site in November and are now available for viewing. They include the following:
Content in the Members Only section is password protected and is only available to Arboretum members. In order to access these special features, members will need to know the password that was printed on the label of their latest Friends of the Arboretum Newsletter or included at the bottom of the e-mail with the latest monthly JCRA e-Update. The user name needed to log in is always "jcra."
JC Raulston Arboretum e-Updates are published electronically every month for everyone interested in the Arboretum and are e-mailed to the Arboretum's members. If you are a member and need to update your contact information or wish to be removed from this mailing, please contact Chris Glenn.
© December 2007, JC Raulston Arboretum