Sweet scents of spring

The Chinese star jasmine is starting to flower now and provides sensational fragrance several times a year.
The Chinese star jasmine is starting to flower now and provides sensational fragrance several times a year. Susan Gillies

WHEN the scent of jasmine (jasminum polyanthum) is in the air, you can be sure winter is over, and spring has arrived.

Jasmine is a quick growing evergreen vine with small, deep green leaves.

The clusters of bright pink buds open to pure white star shaped flowers which are profuse and intensely fragrant, a sweet, spicy, heady fragrance that is absolutely unmistakable.

Jasminum polyanthum is native to western and southern China.

The growing tips twine and curl around whatever support it can find, and it will spread far and wide, travelling several metres in every direction.

Left to its own devices, jasmine will climb over fences, pergolas, sheds and water tanks, scrambling up trees and through hedges.

Jasmine bursts into bloom suddenly in late winter or early spring, flowers profusely for a few weeks, and then starts the important business of growing like crazy during summer.

The stems can travel long distances across the ground, frequently rooting at leaf nodes to produce new plants.

It can become a pest in bushland if it is allowed to escape from a garden, or if prunings are dumped.

I let the single jasmine plant in my garden scramble over the lilly pilly hedge enclosing the courtyard.

When it flowers, it perfumes the entire house.

Once flowering is finished, I cut it back very hard, freeing up the hedge, and let the jasmine start the long march all over again.

I have to pull bits out of the surrounding gardens, too, but if I get onto it promptly after flowering, it is easy to remove.

In the UK and Ireland, jasmine is grown as an indoor plant, with the climbing shoots trained into topiary frames to keep the plant manageable.

So don't dismiss it as a pot plant, if you're prepared to spend time training and pruning.

Grab a pot now and keep it inside for a week or two to enjoy the delicious fragrance before planting it out in its permanent home.

If you want longer-lasting fragrance, or are concerned about the rampant nature of jasmine, consider the better-behaved, longer-flowering chinese star jasmine, trachelospermum jasminoides.

This lovely vine has glossy bright green new growth which deepens to a lovely rich green.

It will flower through spring and summer in a sunny to partly shaded position, and makes a good ground cover.

It looks sensational in a large pot, trained to climb up bamboo stakes or a topiary frame.

The perfume is similar to ordinary jasmine, but a little sweeter without the spicy notes.

Another unmistakable spring fragrance is citrus blossom.

Citrus are usually planted because of their fabulous fruit, but I firmly believe they are worth growing for their fragrance alone.

Although my trees are still laden with fruit, they are also smothered in sweetly scented blossom.

Fortunately, they are on the other side of the house, well away from the jasmine, so the two dominant spring perfumes don't compete with each other.


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Topics:  flowers gardening lifestyle plants spring weather

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