Common Name: Christmas Box, Sweet Box. Botanical Name: Sarcococca Confusa
The Christmas box usually begins to flower in mid January in my garden (I wonder if the name suggests that it originally flowered 3 weeks earlier?) and continues for a few weeks. The flowers are followed by small black spherical berries which are still on the plant when the plant flowers next winter. This slow growing shrub should be more widely grown. It will grow anywhere – sun or shade, it tolerates total neglect and air pollution, the pests keep away from it – and yet many text books don’t even mention it! Since I have not yet found any information on whether the berries are poisonous are not, (I assume they are), I have no interest in the berries and I prune the bush in Spring after it finishes flowering. The bush could otherwise grow up to 2 metres but I prefer it as a sphere of around 80 cm high especially as the twigs do not get leggy and the evergreen leaves keep well all along the lower part of the shrub as well. There is another species Sarcococca Hookeriana which has longer leaves and there is a variety called purple stem – which of course has purple stems.
The Sarcococca is available from plant retailers by mail order, but it is not stocked by many local garden centres. Most retailers would sell a 2 litre plant for under £10. Whilst I was writing this article I had a peep at Amazon and I found that IR Plant and Garden Centre are selling this plant on line for £3.13. (+ £2.99 P.& P.). At that price I don’t know if it is worth trying to propagate it yourself, but as a genuine gardener it is only the first plant that you buy – after that you just don’t pay for the rest – you take cuttings (or suckers in this case)!