Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today

 
 

NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

Plant Profiles

Winter Jasmine

jasminum-nudiflorum-flower-640

 

Winter is just days away, but Winter jasmine is already welcoming the season.  Any plant blooming in the cold months is a marvel, especially here in New England.  It's a particular irony that that one of them is a Winter jasmine, most of whose species are subtropical.

 

The stems remain flexible and even whiplike for years, so Winter jasmine cascades where it can—see "How to handle it" for many ways to help—and, when it touches the ground, roots promptly. 

 

jasminum-nudiflorum-cascade-640

 

A further irony of this hardy jasmine, then, is that not only is it hardy, it's so vigorous it can become a groundcovering thug.  See "How to handle it" for control options.

 

The young stems have green bark.  Notice how they spring from a brown-barked older twig in the picture below.

 

jasminum-nudiflorum-stems-640

 

Winter flowers, cascading or groundcovering growth, green bark on young stems:  Winter jasmine is as generous in its charms and capabilities as it is in suggesting options to take best advantage of each of them.  Read on!

 

 

Here's how to grow this uniquely-hardy jasmine:

Latin Name

Jasminum nudiflorum

Common Name

Winter Jasmine

Family

Oleaceae, the Olive family.

What kind of plant is it?

Deciduous shrub.

Hardiness

Fully hardy in Zones 6 - 10; persists in Zone 5 as well; see "How to handle it" below

Habit

Wide-ranging.  Sprawling, crawling, and arching stems root whenever they touch ground.  Branches readily.  Even older woody stems are slender and flexible.  Cascades when it can. 

Rate of Growth

Fast.

Size in ten years

If uncontrolled, a colony to twenty feet wide and five feet high. 

Texture

Dense and ferny: the foliage is small, with leaflets in threes. 

Grown for

its deep-yellow flowers, which appear sporadically in mild weather for much of late Fall and Winter; my colony is in bloom as I write. 

 

its pleasantly ferny green foliage.

 

its long and flexible first-year stems, which have showy green bark and cascade effortlessly if given the least opportunity.  Older stems remain flexible for several years, but their bark is boring and brown.  See "How to handle it" below.

 

its dense growth, which becomes weed-proof.

 

being deer-proof, at least in my experience. 

 

the "Wow, that's a jasmine?" surprise of growing any of the Jasminum genus outside of the typical jasmine haunts of the Mediterranean and Coastal California.

Flowering season

Late Fall through Winter: December through March.

Color combinations

Winter jasmine is a dignified green all Spring and Summer; there isn't any Fall foliage color.  The deep-yellow flowers look best when backed with dark green, either of the stems of the bush itself, or the foliage of a host shrub or tree.  (See "How to handle it" below.)  There aren't so many colors in Winter that the flowers of Jasminum nudiflorum would be an out-and-out clash, except, that is, for Viburnum 'Dawn', whose flowers, also in Winter, are a chilly pink. 

Partner plants

Plants partner with Jasminum nudiflorum both to provide support for this scandant shrub, and to contrast with its green twigs and yellow Winter flowers.  Magnolia grandiflora is an all-green option; yellow Chamaecyparis (I've written on 'Fernspray Gold' but there are many) would contrast with the Summer foliage as well as the green stems, which are leafless in Winter.  The yellow flowers, though, wouldn't show up as well.  A large old yew tree would be terrific on all counts.

Where to use it in your garden

Winter jasmine can be a groundcover on so large a scale that the flowers themselves are insignificant.  It's fairly shade-tolerant, too, so could groundcover under shade trees where grass might not grow as thickly as you'd like.  It would be sensational cascading down from atop high retaining walls or rock ledge.  It also can be trained up walls and fences, and have a minimal footprint.   

Culture

Any regular  soil.  Full sun and great drainage will help hardiness at the cold end of its range.  Handles full sun throughout its range; it grows well in semi-shade, too, although flowering is reduced. 

How to handle it: The Basics

As far north as my Rhode Island garden, any jasmine that's hardyis a curiosity.  So site J. nudiflorum prominently.  If you garden in milder climates, though, hardy jasmines may just be filler shrubs for out-of-the-way spots.  Bully for you. 

 

It's probably wise to locate the plant where people can easily smell the flowers—it's a jasmine, after all—if (alas) only to confirm that hardy jasmines don't have any scent!  If you don't put the bush towards the front, people will try to walk into your bed, tromping who-knows-what along the way, in their effort to smell it.

 

Especially in mild climates, the colony will eventually get too large, or become too much of a twiggy mess.  Jasmines are a twiggy tribe.  Only forsythia and raspberries can rival winter jasmine's ability to take root wherever a stem touches the ground.  The resultant new shoots have the vigor and outward-bound aspirations of the original plant—which means that the colony will spread with unimpaired vigor unless an external force provides boundaries.  Ideally, those forces are passive: rock ledge, masonry walls (it will crawl right through dry-laid stone walls), open water or boggy ground, paving, or truly deep shade.  If none of the above, then you must provide control. 

 

Winter jasmine's goal is to cover an acre, so site it thoughtfully.  Never hesitate to cut the colony back ruthlessly after flowering is through, just as you'd do, say, with an out-of-control forsythia.  Jasminum nudiflorum will send out new shoots from the base of cut stems, as well as directly from the roots, and these will renew the whole colony in a season.  These first-year shoots also bear lovely green bark, which is showy right through the coming Winter.  It changes to boring brown in its second season, which is all the more reason to give Winter jasmine a serious pruning each Spring.  This removes the growth that's about to change to brown bark, as well as stimulates a new crop of growth that's barked in green.

 

Up North, don't clip your Jasminum other than in Spring, so that any new growth has time to harden up as much as it can before the coming stress of Winter.

How to handle it: Another option—or two?

The long stems of winter jasmine have whip-like flexibility for years.  The shrub doesn't climb, twine, or root up into handy structures or adjacent large plants the way of, say, clematis, climbing hydrangea, or morning glories, but it's easy to "decorate" with jasmine even so.  Individual stems (or even handsful of them) can be loosely tied up fences or walls, or up into large host shrubs or even small trees, so their further growth can cascade back down.  I'm guiding my jasmine up through the loosely-espaliered branches of one of my Southern magnolias, so the tree can be in bloom, thanks to the jasmine, from December through March.  It's already in bloom, itself, from June through October. 

 

Another cascading option would be to plant winter jasmine at the top of high retaining walls or ledge.  Then nearly all of its growth would cascade.  It's an unrealized fantasy of mine to convince friends with ledge twenty feet tall—with a waterfall no less—to plant winter jasmine alongside the lip of the fall. 

 

Individual stems of Winter jasmine aren't quite as hardy when they swag; especially when swagged up walls and fences, the stems can be much more exposed to severe weather than when sprawling along the ground.  Swaddling your jasmine in wind-baffle fabric isn't an option, because that hides the Winter flowers. 

 

North of Zone 7, the better choice is to swag up and into evergreens, because their dense foliage cuts the wind and hence the wind-chill.  Let the shrub grow on the ground for a few years, so stems develop that are several yards long.  Then pull them up (gently cutting through the roots where they've layered), and then lace them up through the very center of the evergreen, tying to the trunk or main branches as needed and as possible, with just their first-year growth projecting into view.  With luck, those interior stems will be safe from the worst of Winter, and can send out new stems forever after.  


Similarly a "free-fall" cascade will never fall as far at the very coldest end of hardiness, because the exposed stems will experience a degree of die-back.  A down-the-slope cascade, though, is just as hardy.  It's still a groundcover—just on the move.

 

The good news with Winter jasmine in a really tough Winter is that the flowering has usually been in progress for weeks, or even months, before the really damaging weather arrives in February and March.  And the shrub has May through October to produce the new growth that will provide next Winter's show.

Quirks or special cases

If even these options aren't sufficient, you could stake Winter jasmine into a weeping standard.  Old stems eventually acquire enough caliper to become trunk-like.  In Zone 7 and south, you could stake Winter jasmine up to ten feet, and still have it cascade as far as you'd like.  A to-the-ground weep is too Cousin Itt; in Spring, trim the head back to nubs so it grows a fresh crop of shorter—and greener—stems. 

 

Standards of Winter jasmine aren't top-hardy in Zone 6; a weeping standard is, in essence, a self-supporting cascade whose support—the trunk—is totally exposed to Winter's worst.  But if you have a chilly sun-room, a Winter jasmine standard would be magical, providing months of bloom through just the dark and dank months when it's most needed.

Downsides

Yes, there's no scent even though this is a jasmine.  On the other hand, any jasmine growing in your garden, scented or not, is probably far more interesting than having no jasmine at all.

 

Winter jasmine is ever-eager to colonize.  No matter how wide it spreads, it's never wide enough.  So you need to be committed to controlling it forever. 

Variants

Only a few, none of them widely available. 'Aureum' has leaves that start out all green, but then progressively lose their chlorophyll. By early summer, mature leaves are already spotted with yellow, i.e., chlorophyll-free, spots. Soon, all the chlorophyll is lost, leaving leaves that endure the entire season sporting an astonishing solid color more the shade of parchment than yellow. New growth continues to form for much of the season, so that some fully-green leaves are always present to sustain current as well as newly-forming additional growth. Even so, 'Aureum' is much less rambunctious than the straight species.

 

'Mystique' has leaves with white margins.  'Nanum' is compact.  'Variegatum' has leaves edged in white and with a patch of gray-green at the center of each leaflet.  'Aureum' and 'Mystique' are on my must-plant list for 2012.

 

The next hardiest jasmine species is J. fruticans, which I also grow proudly.  Other jasmine species and cultivars can be only slightly more tender than J. fruticans; try J. officinale outside, especially the all-gold cultivar, 'Fiona Sunrise', if you live in the bosom of Zone 7 and South; grow it in a pot farther North.  Many jasmines are subtropical and suitable only as container plants North of Zone 8 or even 9. 

 

Being in a climate mild enough to grow scented jasmines outside year-round would be, for me, one sign that I'm in paradise.  How nice, then, that "jasmin" derives from the Persian, "yasmin", meaning "gift from God."

Availability

On-line.

Propagation

Cuttings and layering.

Native habitat

Jasminum nudiflorum is native to China.

 
 
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