Hinton Ampner Garden


Christmas or Sweet Box


The Church Borders, The Dell, The Tennis Court Garden and the Temple Garden


Hardy slow-growing mostly mounding evergreen shrubs, related to the common box, native to SE Asia, Himalayas and western China with attractive foliage and fragrant flowers (except S. saligna, which has little scent), produced during the winter months. Red to black berries are produced in the autumn. S. hookeriana var. humilis is suitable as a groundcover subject, while the others (see below) can be used in the shrub border or for planting under trees and in similar situations.

Site and Care:

They grow best in partial shade, but will tolerate full sun provided there is sufficient moisture in the soil. They flourish in a neutral to alkaline humus-rich soil although frequently tolerating a dry, calcareous soil. Propagate either by division, for the rhizomatous species, suckering shoots or by hardwood cuttings, taken in autumn.

S. hookeriana is upright with a spread of up to 1.8m and clumps of narrow oblong, pointed dark green leaves sweetly scented white flowers in the leaf axils.

S. confusa has a spread of about 1 metre with small oval, taper-pointed glossy dark green leaves very similar in shape to S.hookeriana but has rounder and slightly darker leaves.

S. hookeriana var. digyna Mounds to 1m spreading by suckering with bright green leaves and white flowers with pink anthers.

S. hookeriana var. digyna 'Purple stem' as its name suggests ha purple-pink flushed young shoots and pink-tinged flowers.

S. hookeriana var. humilis Small stoloniferous (spreads by runners) evergreen shrub making a dense low growing, up to 60cm, with white flowers with pink anthers and dark green glossy leaves. Excellent groundcover for shady places. Worth planting for the sweet heady fragrance alone.

S. ruscifolia. Upright arching H & S 1m with oval glossy green 5cm long leaves and creamy white flowers.

S. ruscifolia var. chinensis has narrower leaves.

Less common and less hardy varieties include S. orientalis,S. saligna, S. vagans and S. wallichii.