Summer scent of jasmine

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Jasminum odoratissimum

A profusion of dainty, golden flowers on a fence in my garden at the moment reminded me of my fondness for jasmine. This one is called Jasminum odoratissimum (ht 2-2.5 m), which might lead one to expect it to be the most fragrant of all jasmines, but though it has a pretty scent, I wouldn't say it is the strongest of all in the genus. It is an uncommon species, however, and I enjoy its glossy evergreen leaves and vibrant flowers: it grows nearby a robust specimen of Duranta 'Sheena's Gold', echoing the hue of its bright foliage. Jasminum odoratissimum comes from Madeira and the Canary Islands.

Jasminum laurifolium var. laurifolium, often called J. nitidum

Jasmines are to be recommended for bringing fragrance into the garden in the warmer months. They belong to the Oleaceae family of plants and there are more than 200 species of them, native mainly to tropical and warm temperate regions of the world (particularly South and South-East Asia), thus they are quite well suited to our Sydney climate and a number of them thrive here. They have either a climbing or shrubby habit, though some - such as Jasminum odoratissimum - can grow as either, as does another of my favourite jasmines - Jasminum laurifolium var. laurifolium (ht to 1.2-2m or more) - more usually known by its synonym Jasminum nitidum - from Papua New Guinea. It has flushes of fragrant, clear white blooms that open from purplish buds and have many finely cut petals that are often tinted red-purple on the outside. The flowers remind me of little pinwheels. The glossy leaves are also very attractive.

Jasminum sambac

Another useful jasmine for Sydney is Jasminum sambac, which has creamy white petals and rounded leaves on an evergreen spreading vine or shrub to 1.5-3 m, and it is also in bloom for a long period. It is sometimes known as Arabian jasmine though it actually hails from tropical Asia. There is a double form, called 'Grand Duke of Tuscany', which looks like a miniature Gardenia. Evergreen Jasminum officinale (common jasmine or the poet's jasmine), with its crisp white flowers and dainty leaflets, is very long blooming in Sydney's climate: almost all year round in warmer suburbs. It can be clipped to form a 1-1.5 m shrub or allowed to climb on a trellis or pergola. It is native to West China, North Iran, Caucasus, Afghanistan and the Himalayas.

Jasminum polyanthum

Probably the most intensely fragrant of all the jasmines is Jasminum polyanthum (ht to 6 m, from China), which grows all too easily in our climate and can take over large areas of the garden in a very short time. I love inhaling the perfume of these blooms in late winter and early spring, as it reminds me of the huge bower that grew over the back verandah of my childhood home. I took a layered stem in a pot with me when I left home, which struggled to grow on a window ledge for two years, then was unleashed into the garden of a shared house I lived in for two years in Glebe, where flung itself in all directions and took over the entire plot. Wiser now, I don't actually grow it in my own garden (and wouldn't recommend that anyone else does, either) but still enjoy it when I walk past billowing plants of it on fences in my suburb. Another species I would warn against growing is the so-called primrose jasmine (Jasminum mesnyi, ht to 3 m, also from China), which flowers in late winter and early spring and can form a huge, caney thicket over time.

All jasmines need a sunny spot in fertile, well-drained soil. They can be pruned back after flowering, or at other times to shape those grown as shrubs. The best way to propagate them is by cuttings taken in autumn or spring. Jasmine flowers are important in many Asian cultures, where they are used in religious ceremonies, worn as a hair decoration or in a garland, and cultivated to make tea, syrup, oil, perfume and incense.

Some unrelated plants with strongly fragrant flowers are also called jasmine. Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) is an evergreen vine in the Apocynaceae or dogbane family, as is Chilean jasmine (Mandevilla laxa). Bright yellow Carolina jasmine (Gelsemium sempervirens) is in the Loganiaceae family of plants.

Reader Comments

  • By Peta 6253 Monday, 13 February 2012

    A coincidence! Just today I was checking out the perfume of a jasmine that I had picked the day before to add to flowers in a vase, including roses and buddleia. The jasmine, I think is J. azoricum, a climber with white, almost waxy, flowers and a strong perfume. Yes, I believe that is a good one, though I haven"t grown it myself. Deirdre

  • By Judith 0 Monday, 13 February 2012

    Its always fun to read how you grow things in your garden that here on the opposite side of the globe are strictly for the greenhouse. As winter is slowly giving way to spring everything is stirring in my Vermont greenhouse, especially the yellow Jasminium humile and the Jasminium nitidum. Judith Thanks, Judith. Must be exciting to see those things starting to grow again. Hope you have a great spring. Deirdre

  • By Margaret 4350 Monday, 13 February 2012

    Great thing about star jasmine is that it will grow in the shade. My wonderful vine is 18 years old. Tried to grow Sambac as the perfume was the strongest I"ve ever "smelled" but after 2 goes I"ve given up. Tts scent was stronger than my Cestrum Nocturnum, also labelled Night Jasmine - a fake? The Cestrum is also from another family (Solanaceae), despite its name. Maybe it is too hot for J. sambac where you are? Yes, star jasmine is great for shade, unlike most of the "real" jasmines. Deirdre

  • By valerie 4160 Monday, 13 February 2012

    Last year I planted a Jasmine Polyanthum for my Pergola it has already reached the top. I will make sure it doesn"t take over.I have a Wisteria thats doing well as is the Petrea I only wished my Stephanotis was,its being held back by caterpillars eating the top shoots.It sounds a good collection of climbers! The caterpillars are very bad this year. I love Petrea, and have one that is starting to take off now. Deirdre

  • By Peta 2758 Monday, 13 February 2012

    You"ve whisked me back 40 years to our first house, a little semi in Mosman. Next door"s verandah was covered in Jasminum poyanthum and the fragrance would waft in through our windows. Heaven. My favourite here in the mountains is fine leaved and sweetly scented. I"m told it"s a native. Thanks, Peta. The native one sounds interesting. havenot heard of it before. Deirdre

  • By Peter 2008 Monday, 13 February 2012

    Jasminum odouritissimum MOST interesting and did you take the pic of this plant from your Beecroft garden then .. ? As, if you did then it must have winter cool tolerance in the micro climate you have it growing there ... no ? Coming from Madeira & Canary Islands is it short lived ? Whose growing ? The picture is taken in my garden and I have had the plant for a number of years - at least 10. There was a nursery in the Hunter Valley at that time where I bought it - no longer operating. It doesn"t seem to mind our winters here, which are probably a bit cooler than many other suburbs. Deirdre

  • By Katie 2131 Monday, 13 February 2012

    J.laurifolium is my favourite, too, both for perfume and flower. It grew in my mother"s beautiful garden (sadly, sold a couple of years ago) and I can"t believe I"d forgotten about it until I saw your photo - so thank you! I must get it for my garden. Thanks, Katie - it is a pretty plant and seems easy to grow. Deirdre

  • By margaret 2122 Monday, 13 February 2012

    Didn"t know there were so many Jasmines! Have tried J. sambac a few times, without success. Currently, don"t have any growing, but perhaps should think about some. As usual, your blog is full of information - thank you. Thanks, Margaret. I wonder what it is about J. sambac that makes it hard to grow - would be interesting to find out. I have seen it growing quite wild on fences in my neighbourhood. Deirdre

  • By Carole 2230 Monday, 13 February 2012

    Wow! You have made me think with this offering. The first jasminum I had was polyanthum(common and evergreen, withstood frost),then nudiflorum-frost hardy, followed by officinale(Poet"s), and now I have sambac (Arabian and in a pot) and nitidum(Angel"s Wing flowering in shade).Oooh, lovely perfumes. Thanks, Carol - you have grown a lot! Deirdre

  • By Carole 2230 Monday, 13 February 2012

    The first time I saw jasminum sambac it was a 2x2m bush in the front garden of a terrace house near Marrickville Metro in Newtown, Sydney, in about 1993. It was very healthy but the garden was very ordinary and faced north, it probably wasn"t watered. Thanks for that feedback. It may like good drainage. Deirdre

  • By noela 6009 Tuesday, 14 February 2012

    The jasmine that is the star of my West Australian garden - east of Perth in the Hills - is J.azoricum. Its dark green leaves and white perfumed flowers take little water once established and provide a safe nesting space for our exquisite little blue wrens. Noela from "Halcyon Hill". Thanks, Noela, it certainly sounds lovely and I would like to try it one day. How lucky you are to have those little wrens in your garden! Deirdre

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