Thursday 23 November 2017

Hardy winter jasmine weathers the storms


Gerry Daly

THE stop-start spring has challenged the winter jasmine, but this plant is well adapted to meet the challenge.

Few plants can flower right through the worst months of the year from November to April. But that is what the winter jasmine manages to do.

This plant does not rush out all its flowers in one lot. It sends out a few flowers in late autumn, and if the weather is mild, some more flowers open. When frosty nights arrive, the open flowers survive, but no more flower buds open until the next mild spell.

The winter jasmine is a true jasmine, even though jasmine is more associated with the tropicals. Established plants form a mound of bare, rush-like green stems along which the flowers are carried. It has small leaves, but these are deciduous. The plant continues to photosynthesize in winter through the green stems.

Traditionally, this jasmine was planted at the base of a house wall or garden wall and tied up to wires to gain a little more height. It is a scrambling plant without much tendency to stand upright, preferring rather to scramble over obstacles, including neighbouring plants.

It can grow quite large, fully capable of reaching three metres or more across. But its wandering nature can be put to good use if it is teamed up with other plants that can be used as support, such as the herring bone cotoneaster.

The red berries of the cotoneaster make a superb contrast with the bright yellow flowers of the jasmine, especially as the leaves of cotoneaster fall in autumn, turning red as they go.

Another good partner is pyracantha in any of its coloured berry forms – red, yellow or orange. Both pyracantha and cotoneaster are sufficiently robust and vigorous to carry the jasmine without being overwhelmed.

Some of the cream-yellow variegated ivies are good partners, too.

These plants can be planted within a metre or so of the jasmine and allowed to grow across each other. If one begins to dominate, it is easy to cut away a few stems of the dominant plant, or to simply pull stems of the less vigorous one to the front where it can gain more light and reassert itself.

It roots freely where the stems touch the soil and it is easy to take up one of these natural layers and pass on the new plant to new owners. The only failing is a lack of scent, which is strange because the jasmine family is generally famed for exquisite scent.

Irish Independent

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