Friday, March 1, 2013

Old faithful plants - Winter Flowering Jasmine

Winter Jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum is a flowering hero of the winter landscape.   The long period of soft yellow blooms begin to appear from late December all the way through March.  Though not a show stopper like Forsythia that blooms all at once, it can be an unexpected surprise to stumble upon its cheerful flowers during a drab time of year.  The succession of blooms acts like a countdown, that reminds you of what Spring will soon herald.

Jasmine in full flower - Flickr.com, Conuropsis

During the growing season, Winter Jasmine plays a ground covering role with long arching stems covered in pinnate or feather like dark green leaves.  It is deciduous in the fall, losing its leaves, but the dark green stems provide the illusion of cover from a distance.  In fact, 'nudiflorum' means naked flowers that appear before the foliage emerges.  Maroon-red flower buds open to solitary, six petaled flowers that are bright yellow, softening in color with age.

Flickr.com, Katrin Hagel
Winter Jasmine was just one of many plants collected and brought back from China by the famed explorer, Robert Fortune in 1843.  Like all explorers of the time, they collected stories as well as plants.  Fortune had his fair share of stories, avoiding pirates and mobs but also disguising himself as a Mandarin merchant. Shaving his head to leave a ponytail and dressing in regional clothing permitted him to travel into parts of China that were forbidden.  Fortunes biggest accomplishment from his trips to China was the successful smuggling of tea from China into the Darjeeling region of India, an action forbidden at the time.  Though many of his 20,000 plants and seedlings perished on the first attempt, some plants grew and his actions ended the Chinese dominance on tea production.

One of the easiest plants to cultivate, Winter Jasmine isn't fussy where it grows.  Happy in full sun to part shade, it will spread out and wonder,  rooting readily whenever its stems touch moist ground.  Pruning should be done in spring immediately after flowering to prevent bare patches from appearing.  Old, established plants welcome heavy cutting back by removing one third of the oldest growth to the ground to rejuvenate its vigor.  Plants left unpruned tend to become woody and congested with dead stems.  Winter Jasmine can be trained vertically on fences or walls using support wires to fan the stems, or traditionally allowed to trail across the ground.  The best applications I've seen is spilling down steep slopes or cascading over high retaining walls, softening the harshness of the materials.

Cascading over a wall - Flickr.com, Hardy Tropical
Though not a plant for tight spaces,  Winter Jasmine packs the most punch when allowed to gain some spread.  I love its defiant spirit of flowering during the winter when most plants go dormant.  On a dull day it sprinkles the landscape with splashes of sunlight, that provides hope that the gardening season is not long away!

9 comments:

  1. Winter blooms would be welcome here. I have not seen it grown in our part of New England, but it is a zone 6 plant, so it could survive here. It's probably not used much because if its size, I would think.

    How wonderful to have those sunny yellow flowers outside right now!

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  2. I grew this when I lived in SC. I bought my plants from Woodlanders. :o) It's a pretty tough plant. I love it when you add bits of history to your posts. It's fascinating to me how adventurous and sneaky early plant collectors were. It definitely wasn't a career for the faint of heart. Thanks for another great post, Rob.

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  3. The blog Idyll Haven could use your expertise if you have the time. :o)

    http://idyllhaven.blogspot.com/2013/03/truth-in-gardening.html

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  4. My winter jasmine never looks like that. Sniff. :(

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    1. I got a tip that they need to be in full sun. I've seen a glorious one outside an office building along Rt28 near the airport. No shade and covered in flowers.

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  5. hi, love your website. Query from Wimbledon: just moved here and there is a substantial jasmine "tree" that has been left unpruned for some time, extending over half the smallish garden and completely submerging the shed! Although I've cut it back significantly, I can see mostly woody /dead stems that you mentioned! Is there any way to rescuing it? Thanks.

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    1. I miss the old home town! As for your Jasmine, nothing ventured, nothing gained. I would go to town on cutting it back, removing all the old and dead growth and reinvigorating it again. It sounds like your gardens to small to let this beast take hold, and there's too many other plants to include into your garden. Bite the bullet and hack it down. Good luck and thanks for reading.

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  6. in my garden here in france this plant is really taking over i have four large bushes round the garden the only one that is trying to not take over the village is in a small bed which it shares with a large lavande and a fushia the three cohabit well. but what can i do with the other three their goal seams to be world domination???? help

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    1. I feel your pain. We have a large and wild planting of this outside where I work and its gone crazy. Although it looks great its beginning to interfere with other shrubs. Don't be scared to get in there and cut it back, it won't mind a thinning. Try and prune selectively so it doesn't looked chopped. The best way is to prune while making it look like it hasn't been pruned. I'd love to say I'd pop over and help, but unless the lottery shines on me tonight I'm grounded. Remember, plants are like hair! You can shave it down and it still grows back.

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