You really appreciate flowers when you don’t happen to have any, such as in the winter time. When we moved into our home 11 years ago from a much colder climate, I decided that I would love to try growing some plants out in the garden that would provide us with winter-time flowers.
One of the earliest that blooms for me is Winter Jasmine, Jasminium nudiflorum.
Mine started sending out a few tentative blossoms as early as December, and it continues to add to its display, reaching a peak of bloom usually around February.
Unlike summer jasmine, which has white flowers, larger leaves and is very fragrant, winter jasmine is not fragrant. You’ll notice in the second part of its Latin name what looks like could be the word “nude,” and in fact there is a good reason for that: this plant blooms before all the dark green leaves appear on the viney branches, thus the apparent nudity, at least to some bored botanist who was naming the plant!
It doesn’t stay nude, however–here is what the winter jasmine foliage looks like in October–it is a darker green in the summer months. In the photo, it shares space with a purple beauty berry with larger yellow leaves in the center and some brown seed heads and reddish-green foliage from a spirea shrub:
The winter jasmine flowers do look a bit like the flowers from a forsythia shrub, but my forsythia blooms later in the spring than the winter jasmine, and the forsythia is quite a bit taller with a more upright growth habit than the jasmine as well. Here’s a forsythia blooming with a tall viburnum shrub:
My winter jasmine, which is a viney shrub that thrives in garden zones 6-10, is approximately 5-plus feet tall and quite wide–around 7-8 feet. It can be trained up a strong trellis, where I have read it can reach 15 feet. Mine goes partly up a large trellis, but mostly it spills over the cement retaining wall of our lowest terrace in front of our house, and it’s a perfect plant for this location, as it just covers the wall. Plus the yellow flowers look pretty against the grey stones in the wall, not to mention the grey skies at this time of year. The brown seedheads in the right in this photo are from a spirea that blooms in the summer. From this angle it looks a little like Cousin Itt from The Addams Family–just give it a hat!
Cousin Itt (Source)
But I digress.
I don’t do anything special with this plant in terms of care, and I’ve found it to be very easy care. I planted it in a full-sun location and let it do its thing. (I have read that it will also thrive in part shade as well.) I never water it in the summer, and we get lots of rain during the winter, and that seems to be enough for it. I never fertilize it either, mostly because I don’t want to encourage it to get any bigger! It’s never gotten any pests. It reproduces itself anywhere a stem comes in contact with the soil, so in the late winter or spring I go out and take a shovel and cut off all the babies and either give them away as new plant starts or dump them in the trash. I also take this opportunity to prune back any of the vines that have grown too long and are on the sidewalk or crowding into our garage door, which I just do with my hand pruners. I’ve also read that you can rejuvenate an old, tired winter jasmine that has bare spots or is not blooming well by hard pruning them back to 18-24 inches, but I’ve never had need to try it. It does grow quickly, however, and I’m guessing that a hard haircut would probably work well with it to give it a new lease on life.
It puts on a wonderful flower show in the darkest months of the year, provides nectar flowers for our overwintering hummingbirds as well, and then just becomes a dark green backdrop to other plants that take over the scene as spring, summer and fall arrive.
Do you grow any winter-flowering plants? I’d love to hear from you in the comments, so stop by for a visit!
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Till next time,
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