Plant of the Week: Abeliophyllum distichum

Since few people frequent nurseries and garden centres in February, this plant remains rare despite being tough and easy to propagate. Seen and above all smelt at this time of year, it is irresistible. For the rest of the time it is just a sprawly little shrub with no beauty of form or leaf.

But there are not so many beautifully scented winter-flowering shrubs that we can afford to be snobbish about this one. Its flowers are rather like those of the wintersweet or the forsythia, but a translucent milky white, more attractive with each year as this shrub gradually grows to a metre or more. It likes a warm wall for good flowering, and thrives through drought and neglect.