Mild weather brought out the first blooms of winter jasmine in the past week, and a welcome sight they are, though a few weeks ahead of when we normally see them.
Winter jasmine, whose botanical name is Jasminum nudiflorum, is a flower of the cool-to-cold days of winter. That keeps them going, as if they were in a florist’s cool box. Even freezing weather, common in January, doesn’t seem to harm them very much.
Their blooms remind people of forsythia because the shape and color are similar. But winter jasmine blooms earlier, the flowers are smaller and the stems are green instead of beige.
It also blooms longer, and much of this is due to our winter weather. Forsythia blooms in March, when the days get warmer, and that tends to shorten the life of the flowers.
So what is this useful plant like? It possesses a very graceful shape, with stems rising 3 feet or so from the ground and then arching gracefully. This makes it good for a corner or a gentle unclipped hedge. Even better, it cascades beautifully over a tall wall of stone or brick where the stems can grow much longer. This can be quite spectacular, especially through the winter as both the flowers and new leaves come out. The foliage is a pretty glossy green, organized as three leaflets each about 1 1/2 inches long. The flowers tend to emerge on the bare branches, then are followed by the new foliage.
It may also be useful on a bank, but the stems and foliage may not be dense enough – at least initially – to cover all the ground and keep weeds down. This plant tolerates poor soil but thrives in better, well-drained ground, and has no pests that amount to anything. It requires a bright, sunny spot that is moist but well-drained. It transplants well and settles down rapidly in a new location.
The only demerit is there is no scent, which often surprises people considering the name. The tropical jasmines such as Jasminum samba, often sold as a potted plant in winter and spring, is the one you’re thinking about for a strong scent from its white flowers. It is not a plant for outdoors here in the Piedmont.