Plant of the Week: Himalayan sweet box

The High Line's planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running in the 1980s. Today, the High Line includes more than 500 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees – each chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line's rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today. This week we share one of our gardeners' current favorites with you.

If you stroll through the Philip A. & Lisa Maria Falcone Flyover between West 25th Street and West 27th Street this week, you may catch a whiff of a sweet smelling fragrance. The honey aroma that drifts along the raised walkway comes from a shrub tucked into the garden below.

Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis is a low, dense evergreen shrub. It is a member of the Buxaceae family, the same family inhabited by the more widely used boxwoods. Similar to boxwoods, sarcococcas are often used as a low hedge in garden design. However, because of its truncated stature, Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis may also be planted as a spreading groundcover.

Commonly known as "sweet box" due to the previously mentioned fragrance, sarcococca is also nicknamed "Christmas box" due to its ever-present emerald green foliage. The shrub blooms tiny white flowers December through March. The dark berries of sarcococca may persist as flowering begins, creating a unique visual effect.

The specific humilis variety is known for its hardiness. It is resistant to both pollution and deer, and tolerates a wide range of soils. It is an excellent garden choice due to its hardiness factors, and the fragrance is a delightful bonus. Sarcococca is a natural woodlander and truly thrives in shady landscapes.

Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis is a very low maintenance shrub, according to our gardeners. It rarely requires pruning or mulching, and its slow spread is easy to keep in check. Remember: it is a true shade-lover, and will burn if it receives too much sun. Sarcococca should also be grown in wind-protected locations.

Philip A. & Lisa Maria Falcone Flyover, between West 25th Street and West 27th Street

Photos by Ayinde Listhrop.

Our horticultural team counts on members and friends like you to help keep the High Line beautiful and thriving. Join our community of supporters who play an essential role in the High Line's most important gardening projects.

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