Thursday, January 5, 2012

Winter jasmine

Here’s a good example of why this plant has been cherished by generations of gardeners: it’s January 5th and as we approach the front door we’re greeted by a scattering of cheery blooms. No, it’s not May in January, but they are flowers and they are bright enough to attract attention. It’s not fragrant, and that’s doubly curious: first of all because it is a true jasmine, a group noted for intense fragrance; and secondly because plants which bloom in winter often have intense scents, presumably to advertise their presence to the few pollinators likely to be active at that season. Sorry, the second clause in that last sentence was wildly metaphoric (plants don’t advertise, for example), but these days more and more that’s the way we talk about these things.

Time of bloom with this plant is erratic, and that only adds to its charm. In the same garden plants on a sunny bank will bloom before plants on the north side of the house.  It’s usually seen as an untrained mound of arching, sprawling stems about two or three feet high and of ever expanding width. It’s easily trained against a wall or even on an isolated stake six or eight feet high, and plants trained upright can be really spectacular in bloom.
This is one plant on my list of plants I would not want to be without.

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