Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sarcococca - Sweet Box

A genus or tribe of ornamental, evergreen shrubs related to the Boxwoods. They are mostly native to moist, dense forests of the Himalayas and western China and are moderate in growth rate.
They prefer neutral to alkaline soil with plenty of leaf compost or humus worked in.
They grow fastest in moist partial shade but can tolerate deep shade, dry shade and even full sun with moister soil. These very hardy, easy to grow shrubs and groundcover also tolerate pollution, rarely need pruning and are virtually immune to insect pests, diseases and deer.
Suckering species can be divided, otherwise propagation is generally from seed or half hardened cuttings taken in summer. Ripened seed is sown immediately after removing the pulp. If protected from frost; Sarcococcas can also be reproduced from hardwood cuttings taken in autumn and rooted in a cold frame.

Sarcococca confusa ( Enigmatic Sweet Box )
An attractive, vigorous, rounded, evergreen shrub reaching up to 5 feet or very rarely as much as 8 x 13 feet. Some records include: fastest growth rate - 2 feet. No cultivars are known and are unlikely to occur since this plant shows no variation when grown from seed. It is extinct in the wild.
The leathery, wavy-edged, elliptical leaves, up to 3.5 x 1 ( rarely over 2.5 ) inch in size, are very glossy, deep green above, pale beneath.
The clusters of extremely fragrant, creamy-white flowers appear during late winter.
They are followed by bright red berries that darken to black as they ripen during autumn. The berries are very persistent, lasting into spring.
Hardy zones 5 to 10 and no leaf damage occurs to as cold as 7 F. It is drought tolerant and not bothered by insects or disease.

* photo taken on October 17 2010 @ U.S. National Arboretum, D.C.

* photos taken on Dec 6 2012 in Columbia, MD




* photos taken on June 30 2013 @ U.S. National Arboretum, DC





* photos taken on Oct 13 2015 in Columbia, MD


* photo taken on Jun 14 2016 in Columbia, MD

* photo taken on July 25 2017 in Columbia, MD


Sarcococca hookeriana
The Himalayan Sweet Box from China is a moderate growing ( to 1.5 feet in a year ) evergreen thicket forming shrub that often spreads by suckers to a total size of 6.5 x 13 feet. Heights are much as 10 feet have been reported in its native range.
The lance-shaped to narrow elliptic leaves, up to 4.3 x 1.3 ( rarely over 3 ) inches, are glossy bright green, later turning to deep green.
The very fragrant, white flowers are borne during autumn.
They are followed by rounded, black berries.
Hardy zones 6 to 9 in shade or sun ( not drought tolerant in sun ) on fertile, light neutral to alkaline soils. Tolerates drought ( in shade ) and pollution.



subsp 'Dignya'
Leaves are larger to 4.5 x 1.3 inches and the flowers are off white.
The stems are reddish.

'Fragrant Mountain'
Vigorous, dense and rounded in habit, reaching up to 2.5 x 3.5 feet in 7 years; eventually 3 x 4 feet or slightly wider. It is a great hardy Skimmia substitute.
The glossy, deep green leaves are larger and broader than the species.
Hardy zones 6 to 9. It is very disease resistant.

'Fragrant Valley'
Similar to Sarcococca hookeriana var humilis but very dense and faster spreading. It can reach up to 2 x 4 feet in 10 years., eventually broader spreading. It is great for mass plantings and groundcover.
The leaves are similar to but slightly narrower than var humilis. The foliage is glossy deep green.
Hardy zones 5 to 9. It is very disease resistant.

* photo taken on July 15 2013 in Harford Co., MD


* photo taken on Sep 21 2013 in Harford Co., MD

* photos taken on Oct 13 2015 in Columbia, MD



* photos taken on June 25 2017 in Columbia, MD









* photos taken on July 7 2017 in Columbia, MD


* photos taken on Aug 1 2017 in Columbia, MD




var humilis ( Himalayan Sweet Box )
A beautiful, suckering, low, groundcover form of Sarcococca hookeriana, reaching a maximum size of 2 x 8 ( extremely long lived - average landscape size is about 1 x 4 ) feet, that is native to mountainous parts of China. A clump can spread in width at a rate of up to 0.6 feet per year though I have personally observed runners excceding a foot on exceptionally vigorous plants.
The lance-shaped leaves, up to 4 ix 0.8 inches in size, are glossy deep green throughout the year.
The very small, scented, white ( with pink anthers ) flowers are borne during winter.
They are followed by small, globular, black berries, up to 0.3 inches wide.
Hardy zones 6 to 10 ( tolerates as low as -15 F ) in shade or sun ( if kept moist ) on fertile, light, neutral to alkaline soil. Tolerates deep shade, pollution, drought ( in shade only ) and alkaline soil. If a severe winter causes freeze damage however rare, cut it back hard, do not give up on it because it may resprout by the time summer arrives. Propagate from seed sown during autumn or by semi-ripe cuttings taken during summer.



* photo taken @ U.S. National Arboretum on Aug 2004

* photo taken from Columbia, MD landscape install

* photo taken on May 5 2010 in Columbia, MD

* photo taken on May 8 2010 @ U.S. National Arboretum, D.C.

* photos taken on May 16 2010 @ Cylburn Arboretum, Baltimore, MD


* photo taken on annual Horticultural Society of Maryland Garden Tour



* photos taken on Sep 14 2012 in Columbia, MD

* photos taken on July 9 2015 in Columbia, MD




* photo taken on June 20 2016 in Columbia, MD

* photo taken on Nov 14 2016 in Columbia, MD

* photos taken on Nov 29 2016 in Columbia, MD


* photos taken on Feb 24 2017 in Columbia, MD


* photos taken on Mar 1 2017 in Columbia, MD



* photo taken on Mar 18 2017 @ Brookside Gardens, Wheaton, MD


'Purple Stem'
A cultivar of the subspecies 'Dignya'
Flowers are pink tinged and the young shoots are magenta-purple in color.
Leaves are larger to 4.5 x 1 inches.

* photos taken on Mar 23 2011 @ Brookside Gardens, Wheaton, MD



Sarcococca orientalis ( Oriental Sarcococca )
A handsome, moderate growing, suckering evergreen shrub that is similar to Sarcococca confusa, reaching a maximum size of 4 x 13 feet ( 3 x 4 feet in 10 years ), that is native to eastern China. It makes an excellent tall groundcover. Very old stands in its native range have been reported to reach 10 feet in height.
The closely-spaced, smooth-edged leaves, up to 3.5 x 1.5 inches, are glossy deep green.
The foliage remains attractive all year.
The fragrant, white flowers, up to 0.5 inches, are borne winter into early spring.
They are followed by glossy black berries.
Hardy zones 7 to 9 ( 6 on protected sites ) in partial to full shade, preferring cool, moist, well drained soil though is tolerant of dry shade. It is easy to grow.

Sarcococca ruscifolia
A thick, bushy, suckering, rounded shrub native to the Himalayas and western China. It typically reaches up to 4 feet tall though sometimes as much as 7 x 7 feet in height and width. Heights up to 13 feet have been reported on very old stands in its native range.
The evergreen, lance-shaped, taper pointed leaves, up to 3 x 1.3 inches, are glossy deep green.
The perfumed, creamy-white clustered flowers are borne during winter. They are later followed by dark red, rounded fruit, up to 0.25 inches across.
Hardy zones 7 to 10 and tolerant of very dry soils in shade and also deep shade. Foliage browns at slightly colder than 10 F but the stems can survive lower temperatures. Very heat and humidity tolerant.

* photo taken on 4th of July 2010 in Washington, D.C.

* photo taken on Sep 5 2013 in Elkridge, MD


subsp. 'Chinensis'
fast growing, with supposedly narrower foliage.
It is hardy north to zone 6.

Sarcococca saligna ( Willowleaf Sweet Box )
A handsome, long-lived, thicket forming, rhizomatous, suckering, graceful, evergreen shrub native to the Himalayas from Afghanistan to Nepal that typically reaches 5 x 8 feet though sometimes much larger on ideal sites. Some records include: fastest recorded growth rate - 2 feet; 6 years - 6 feet in height; largest on record - 17 x 20 feet ( over 10 feet not known outside native range ).
The narrow, lance-shaped leaves, up to 6 x 1 inches, are bright green.
The flowers in winter and early spring are NOT scented unlike most Sarcococcas.
They are followed by oval, deep purple fruits.
Hardy zones 7 to 11 and will resprout if frozen to the ground. It is known to tolerate as least 4 F with no dieback. Heat tolerant, even in Texas. It is easy to root from softwood cuttings under mist during June.

Sarcococca wallichii
Moderate growing, dense, evergreen shrub, reaching up to 10 x 5 ( rarely over 6 ) feet in size, that is native to Xizang, Yunnan, Bhutan, northeast India, Burma, Nepal.
The leaves, up to 4 x 2 ( averaging 3 x 1.2 ) inches in size, are glossy bright green, later turning to deep green. The leaves are 3-veined.
The abundant highly fragrant, white flowers are borne during winter.
Hardy zones 8 to 9, requiring a maritime climate such as milder parts of the British Isles or Pacific Northwest.

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