Daily Flower Candy: Jasminum nudiflorum

Jasminum nudiflorum: winter jasmine

Most plants when translated from their native habitat into gardens adapt quite nicely. Some run riot, others curl up and die, whilst a few just don’t fit in. One such oddball, in my humble opinion, is the winter jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum. Gardeners put up with this gawky, sprawling shrub for one reason and one reason only – its crop of yellow flowers borne at the dawn of the New Year. They are welcome and pleasing, yes, but the rest of the plant has about as much panache as a bundle of pick-up sticks.

A stroll along some of Broadstairs’ more salubrious streets illustrates householders’ vain attempts to tame or restrain this unruly beast. Some have their winter jasmine lashed tight to the wall next to their front door, as you might tether an unfortunate Stag to a lamppost. Others have it clipped into mean, threadbare little hedges, removing most of the flowering stems in doing so. Just occasionally one spots a plant that’s been allowed to do its thing, cascading down the back of a wall, or over a fence, producing a stiff fan of plain green stems, each well furnished with blossom. Unlike other jasmines and winter-flowering shrubs, the six-petalled flowers are devoid of perfume. One feels the least God could have done is furnish this ugly duckling with scent.

 

 

Jasminum nudiflorum is not a suitable plant for those gardeners I refer to as ‘choppers’; folk who like their plants to behave in accordance with their rules, rather than those of nature. It has a rambling, messy habit and is more a scrambler than a climber. One might justly argue that it’s gardeners, rather than the jasmine, who are fault, employing it in the wrong location for it to express its natural beauty. Jasminum nudiflorum is best suited to spots where it can march across the ground or cascade over a retaining wall with wild, bristly abandon. Best not to pretend it is ever going to look neat and presentable.

Apart from the obvious benefit of producing cheerful flowers when the garden is a murky sea of green and brown, Jasminum nudiflorum does have other advantages. Introduced from China in 1845 by Robert Fortune, it was initially considered a plant for the greenhouse (heaven forbid!) and is occasionally cultivated in bonsai form. In time, the winter jasmine turned out to be perfectly hardy and tolerant of poor growing conditions, including dry shade, impoverished soil and urban pollution. If nothing else, winter jasmine is a survivor, and if you are a hesitant gardener this is one plant you are unlikely to kill. Young plants are a staple of garden centres and can be purchased cheaply. Growing fast, Jasminum nudiflorum responds well to hard pruning in early spring, as soon as flowering has finished. Failure to do so leaves one with a thick, impenetrable haystack of a plant that can only be rejuvenated by cutting most of the stems down to about 18″ and letting them reshoot. Wandering stems will root where they come into contact with the ground, should one want more of the same. Given a choice I would far rather plant a winter-flowering clematis, a variegated ivy, a daphne, or almost anything else.

 

 

At this point you may judge that I have been a little harsh in my assessment of the winter jasmine, and I would love to hear from you if you have grown it beautifully. In fact I’d be thrilled to eat my hat. A classic combination is to plant winter jasmine against a wall with pale blue Iris unguicularis at its feet: the yellow flashes on the irises petals pick up the canary yellow of the jasmine at about the same time of year. A summer-flowering clematis might use the jasmine for support, but will need a cool, moist root-run. Less pleasing is the combination with red-berried cotoneaster or orange pyracantha, both common shrubs that are similarly butchered and mutilated in front gardens. It’s tough being a garden shrub, especially in January, so perhaps I should give winter jasmine the benefit of the doubt? TFG.

 

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18 thoughts on “Daily Flower Candy: Jasminum nudiflorum

    1. I can imagine winter jasmine makes a very pretty cake decoration. The stems could be poked into the icing or laid ontop I guess. I’m also a winter baby so I appreciate the scarcity of alternatives at this time of year. That said, my yellow argyranthemums are still looking very respectable at the moment. My cake had chocolate buttons on this year. Not so pretty, but quite tasty.

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  1. I don’t have the winter version but do have the summer edition. It’s a colossal pain in the backside. A right thug. It only has to look at the ground the wrong way and it spawns another plant. From one small plant it has taken over an entire fence line. I do battle with it all year. I might not mind so much but the flowers are underwhelming and last about 5 minutes. Grrr.

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    1. Oh goodness I made such a mistake when I knew nothing about gardening of planting lots of common jasmine down a central hedge and now it has spread and smothers everything in its path and never flowers at all. I would never get it out so I am stuck with it forever now. What a mistake!!

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  2. Still haven’t made up my mind about it. Like Frog and others, I really like the flowers – they remind me of primroses and the whole thing of upside-down Forsythias. The latter is similarly often a victim of mutilation by wrong pruning and it’s bare stems about as beautiful – and still… First came across winter jasmine many years ago on a dreadfully grey and wet winter day: it was grown the right way – i.e. left to sprawl down naturally – and it blew my mind, seemed like a little miracle, one of those flowers in fairy tales that bloom amidst deep snow to light the way to a secrete paradise. Should add perhaps this was in Germany where winters are less green and floriferous than here in Britain. You have so much more choice here that you easily can (and perhaps should?) pass over winter jasmine.
    Had to smile about the initial “assignment” as greenhouse plant. In a book I bought a few days ago, a volume of “The Floricultural Cabinet” from 1846, there is a mention under “New and Rare Plants” of Anemone japonica with the words “it merits a place in every greenhouse and flower-garden”, “probably enduring winter too”. Seeing what a thug in gardens it can be – albeit a very beautiful and loveable one – it pays perhaps to experiment a bit more with plants considered to be borderline hardy.

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    1. Oh My! Japanese anemones in the greenhouse. It would be like Day of the Triffids!! I believe our climate has also become so much warmer, winters milder, and gardeners less inhibited, so that plants my grandfather would have cosseted according to the rule book are now given a chance in the open.

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  3. It is not even commonly available here anymore. The only specimens I know of are in the old landscape of the Highway 17 Freeway through Campbell. I only rarely see it in nurseries. However, another yellow flowering jasmine with a name I do not remember is becoming more available. I actually think that J. nufiflorum is more useful because it is more resilient (resilient enough for a freeway), and has a better form. The other one can not seem to decide if it should be a vine or a shrub. Although I happen to like it (and got copies from an old home in Monterey), I do not think that I would recommend it to others.

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  4. As regards the winter jasmine, a few yellow flowers on stiff wispy sticks is all it offers but at least it’s a teeny bit of yellow in the dark winter. I suspect I prune next year’s flowers off far too often. Must work out exactly how and when to keep it in check. Thank for this articles – very helpful.

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    1. Try growing narcissus like ‘Rijenveld’s Early Sensation’ or ‘Cedric Morris’ instead. They will reward you with lots of yellow flowers without the stickiness! Prune immediately after blooming to maximise the flower power of the jasmine. Dan

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  5. A belated reply! Winter Jasmine is one of my all-time favourites–it’s so reliable, & cheering, ushering in the New Year. But I agree, its stems are a challenge. And I always wish it would produce more flowers. Great idea to have it beside the Algerian winter iris….I’m going to try that!

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  6. It has taken me two months to comment! I absolutely love this plant, even if it is chopped in to submissiveness it can make a fabulous sort of thatch as a porch or buttress, apart from that I have been emboldened to write having just read Mary Keen’s piece on Graham Stuart Thomas’ top favourite eight plants and, you have guessed it, there is Jasminium nudiflorum.

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