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

Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: The Height of the Winter Jasmine Cascade

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In just another week or two, the slender stems of Winter jasmine will be studded with butter-yellow flowers the size and color of those of forsythia.  The show usually lasts for three months, too—all the way into March—by which time the hand-off to Spring is finally imminent.

 

The jasmine's slender stems are easy to train up against walls or, as I do, into one of my espaliered southern magnolias.  They continue to grow from their points of anchoring, forming the graceful cascade you see here.

 

The higher the stems, the higher the resultant "waterfall" of jasmine growth.  My jasmine stems are cascading from only five feet or so.  There's another fifteen feet of southern magnolia above.  Can the jasmine stems be trained that high?  The temptation to do so is certainly high:  What an astonishing show a twenty-foot cascade of Winter jasmine would be!

 

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Plants that are supported grow larger than those that aren't.  The reason is as much a matter of leverage as it is constitution and circumstance.  In a temperate climate such as this, occasional heavy Winter snow and ice are inevitable, as are high winds and hurricanes.  An unsupported plant that is growing beyond the extent that it can support itself will be broken down, literally, by the extreme weather.  When supported, that kind of brutal "reality testing" never happens.

 

But even very strong-wooded plants don't grow larger without limit when they're unsupported, or when growing in a climate without stressful weather.  Any given species and cultivar has its own ultimate mature size for free-range growth.  Perhaps there's an upper elevation—a ceiling—above which a given plant's foliage can't draw up moisture through the plant's stems.  Or perhaps there's a genetic control to the extent of free-range growth, maintaining a limit even in a stress-free climate.  Old beech trees in London are no taller or wider than old beech trees in Boston, even though London never experiences Boston's heavy snows.  London's beeches don't live any longer, either. 

 

More frustrating for me, my 'Eddie's Jewel' rose doesn't seem likely to fully canopy its pergola, despite my years of diligently tying its stems upward and outward across the frame.  Its massive canes are as thick and trunk-like as any hardy rose's can be and, yet, even with support, they don't seem interested in growing longer than about eighteen feet.  And I need twenty-plus.  Drat! 

 

But when some plants are supported, they are freed of their internally-dictated limitations.  Ironically, the best candidates are those whose growth, at least when young, is the least able to support itself in the first place.  The largest rose in the world is a Lady Bank's rose in Arizona that has been trained atop a pergola that now covers about 8,000 square feet.  The young stems of Rosa banksii are famously thin.  A wisteria in California has been trained across a pergola that covers an acre; some of its stems are more than 500 feet long.  Young stems of wisteria are tendril-like, and aren't self-supporting for more than a few feet.

 

Closer to home, the canes of my 'Sander's White' rose are typical for Rosa wichuraiana hybrids:  As thick as a finger at the thickest.  They quickly grow fifteen to twenty feet long; if I only had a wider and taller frame on which to train them, they'd grow farther still.

 

The stems of Jasminum nudiflorum are even more slender, and begin to cascade if unsupported for just a foot.  If the wisteria and the Lady Bank's and Sander's White roses are any guide, I'd say that my Winter jasmine will be all too happy to have me lead its stems as high as my magnolia will ever grow.

 

There's one more quirk to the jasmine's potential for growing ever-higher.  The shrub's stems are fully hardy to Zone 5 when they are not trained upward, i.e., when the shrub is growing as a groundcover.  Stem hardiness is reduced, apparently, at increasing elevation.  No doubt one reason is that stems that are higher above ground are normally more exposed to the worst of Winter's weather.  Although the shrub can be trained readily into a free-standing weeping standards in mild climates, those standards aren't normally hardy to Zone 6. 

 

But I'm training my weeping jasmine up into the thickly-foliaged growth of an espaliered magnolia.  The upward path of the jasmine stems is more towards the back of the magnolia, too.  And the entire espalier is backed by my house.  There's less than two feet of clearance between the espalier and the house, and it's that narrow space that contains the upwardly-trained jasmine stems.  

 

With the yard-thick vertical layer of magnolia foliage at its front, and the clapboard wall of my house at its back, the jasmine stems are as sheltered as they could be from direct blasts of wind.  If any jasmine north of New York could be encouraged into a cascade twenty feet tall, this is it.

 

Here's how to grow Winter jasmine, plus pictures of the shrub in flower.  Here's how the plant's small warm-weather foliage ornaments large-leaved partners.  

 

 
 
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