Common name: Sweetbox
Botanical name: Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis
What it is: A low, spreading broadleaf evergreen with woody stems and upright dark-green leaves that come to a soft point. Not to be confused with boxwood, which is bigger and more rounded in habit. Sweetbox gets small, white, fragrant flowers in late March to early April.
Size: 12-18 inches tall, space 2½-3 feet apart.
Where to use: Any shady area where you want to stop mulching. Good as shrub underplanting along a north or east foundation or massed under trees in a wooded or shady setting. Competes well with tree roots. Part to full shade.
Why I like it: I really don’t understand why more people don’t grow (and sell) this short, fragrant evergreen. I grow it as a low groundcover along an east foundation, where it looks great all year, doesn’t need water, hasn’t had any pest problems, smells wonderful in early spring and gets me out of mulching that whole area.
It spreads by runner but not invasively. The only drawback I can think of is that if we get an unusually cold winter, it could die back. But Hershey Gardens also has had an excellent stand of it for many trouble-free years. Ask for it and maybe the garden centers will carry it regularly.