This surprisingly hardy vine thrives in gardens west of the Cascades offering intoxicating fragrance and a resilient demeanor.
Well-loved throughout the world for its heady fragrance and graceful manner, Jasminum is a broad genus of more than 30 species of shrubs and vines in the olive family. This large family of plants is native to the warmer regions of old world Europe, as well as Africa, Australasia, andSoutheast Asia where it has been cultivated for thousands of years.
Flirting with Florist Jasmine
Florist jasmine (J. polyanthum) or—more appropriately—Chinese jasmine, is only half-hardy in thePacific Northwest. Tempted by prodigious sweetly scented flowers, many gardeners purchase the plant, commonly available in early spring at garden centers and nurseries, only to have it fail when temperatures drop below 20ºF. Chinese jasmine blooms on mature wood. Plants that repeatedly die to the ground make a tepid and disappointing comeback the following season only to freeze again the following winter. Gardeners disenchanted with this habit have allowed this failure to color the reputation of the entire genus. Chinese jasmine is best adapted to the milder Oregon coast and gardens further south where it blooms in mid-spring with masses of dark pink buds opening to pink and white sweetly fragrant flowers.[/sidebar]
Commonly known as Jasmine, this plant has entwined itself into many cultures. Tropical species, like J. sambac, produce floral oils for perfume and flavoring tea. Though commonly referred to as Arabian jasmine, its true origin is likely theMalay Peninsula, spreading from there throughout the subtropics and the tropics. InIndia, married women wear jasmine flowers in their hair to denote their marital status; widows are forbidden the practice. Jasmine is the national flower of thePhilippines as well asIndonesia. It is known as pikake inHawaii, where it is a familiar component of fragrant leis.
Possibly the most endearing aspect of jasmine is its use as a common name for other fragrant but unrelated vines. Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) is commonly grown in the Pacific Northwest, as is Chilean jasmine (Mandevilla laxa) from Chile. Not just vines have adopted this moniker; gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides) is sometime called Cape jasmine.
Not all jasmines are tropical. A large selection, primarily from the Mediterranean, the Middle East, andChinaare adaptable to growing conditions west of the Cascades. It is unclear when the first jasmine species arrived in thePacific Northwest. Perhaps it was a cutting carried in the pocket of a homesick European immigrant or brought by people moving north from warmer regions to the south. Jasmine has never been common in northwest gardens, possibly due to the unfortunate notion that Jasmines are not cold hardy.
Queen of Garden Vines
Poet’s jasmine (J. officinale) has long captured gardeners’ hearts with its vigorous habit and heavenly fragrance. Known since Shakespeare’s time, the vine has been treasured for centuries and still holds a special place in English gardens today. Bountiful fragrant flowers are produced on strong twining growth beginning with a large flush in late spring and continuing all summer until frost. This advantage of blooming on new growth means plants pruned heavily in spring will bounce back and flower profusely in just a few weeks.
A deciduous perennial, vines quickly grow 15 to 20 feet. Plants are not fussy about rich soil but require good drainage. They are disease resistant, not bothered by pests, including deer and hardy to Zone 7. (At Xera Plants, we grow six varieties of J. officinale. All are excellent cultivars that originated in the United Kingdom and are a distinct improvement on common poet’s jasmine.)
- J. o. ‘Affine’ Maroon new growth ripens to forest green. Clusters of pink tinted buds open to exceptionally large, and deliciously fragrant white flowers throughout summer.
- J. o. ‘Argenteovariegatum’ An exquisite variegated vine with leaves heavily edged in cream with a sage-green interior emerge tinted pink in spring. Masses of sugar-white flowers from pink buds are produced in early summer followed by sporadic bloom throughout the rest of the growing season.
- J. o. ‘Aureovariegatum’ A vigorous selection with leaves and stems irregularly splashed with gold against a deep green background; new growth emerges coral to an exciting effect.
- J. o. ‘Fiona’s Sunrise’ All parts of this dramatic vine emerge chartreuse green and ripen to gold. Foliage color is fully sun-proof with the added bonus of retaining its golden hue in dense shade. ‘Fiona’sSunrise’ bears masses of pure white fragrant flowers in summer.
- J. o. ‘Grandiflorum’ An especially strong cultivar with deep green, handsome foliage. Huge clusters of white flowers are powerfully fragrant—especially at night and when conditions are warm and humid. J. o. ‘Grandiflorum” should not be confused with J. grandiflorum, a tender species cultivated in frost-free areas of the Mediterranean, which is seldom seen in thePacific Northwest.
- J. o. ‘Inverleith’ New foliage on this tidy vine emerges dark red before settling to a deep glossy green; deep red flower buds open to a white center with a red reverse for a wonderful bicolor effect. Bright claret red fall color before leaf drop is an added bonus.
- Combine J. o. ‘Affine’ and Clematis montana ‘Rubens’ on a sturdy trellis or fence and let these two vigorous vines duke it out. The rosy flowers of the clematis in spring are followed by fragrant jasmine blossoms in summer for a long season of continuous bloom and interest.
- Pair J. o. ‘Aureovariegatum’ with blue-flowered clematis for a lovely combination of foliage, fragrance, and flowers.
- Weave the branches of the purple-leaved Cotinus coggygria ‘Grace’ with J. o. ‘Fiona’s Sunrise’ for a complementary and harmonious arrangement of color and growth habit.
A plant of history and romance, poet’s jasmine thrives in the Pacific Northwestwhere it seduces gardeners with fragrant flowers and a graceful twining habit. Seek out these choice cultivars and adopt them as they have been in Europe and Asia. Your landscape—and your senses—will be richer for it.