Winter Jasmine

I’ve long been a fan of winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum), though it’s been a few years since it’s really shone in our climate. December 2015 was a banner month for the plant.

Growing over a stone
Growing over a stone

Most years winter jasmine opens a few flowers at a time on warm days during the winter, providing a bit of hope in the otherwise brown and drab landscape. It was a very popular landscape plant in the 1980s, when it was usually planted to cascade over a wall, as it’s thought that the reflected heat of the stone encourages the winter blooms.

It’s not used as much today, probably because it’s not always a reliable show, so designers have abandoned them in favor of spreading clematis and other showier plants. Most years the “just a few flowers” aren’t showy enough to make up for its otherwise unremarkable habit, and if the blooms don’t open until spring, they simply aren’t as showy as forsythia and other early flowering plants. The glossy foliage and arching habit are nice, but less so than many other low shrubs.

When Winter Jasmine Shines

The strangely warm December of 2015 was a banner season for winter jasmine. While the weather was warm and pleasant for being outdoors, there was very little to look at other than the unusually green lawns, unless you happened to have planted it. By Christmas day, the shrubs were in full bloom, showy enough that drivers could be seen slowing down to take a better look.

Experimental Uses

Winter jasmines recently planted in a privet hedge, December 2015

I saw winter jasmine pruned into a topiary years ago, so this autumn I planted some divisions of jasmine in a privet hedge to fill the holes I’d made by removing the Norway maples and barberries that were invading it. The idea is to allow the jasmine to weave itself into the structure of the hedge to help make it denser and give it some seasonal interest. Jasmine doesn’t mind being harshly pruned, so it seems a good match. I hadn’t expected the results to come so quickly, but it looks like it will be a great improvement in winters with warm periods.

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