Plant jasmine to scent up garden evenings

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Last Updated: 
February 13, 2006

CORVALLIS, Ore. - The very names of some plants – magnolia, gardenia and jasmine – suggest tropical nights with luscious fragrance on a warm evening breeze. Luckily, hot days in the Northwest are usually followed by cool evenings.

Still, there are some lusciously fragrant tropical plants that are hardy in some of our milder zones.

Though jasmine may evoke perfumed nights south of the border, some species of jasmine can be versatile, trouble-free additions to Northwest gardens, says Neil Bell, consumer horticulturist with the Oregon State University Extension Service.

Jasmines (Jasminum) vary in growth habit from vines to shrubs and include evergreen, semi-evergreen and deciduous species. Not all jasmines are fragrant, and of those that are, some are much more fragrant than others. The species with the classic, freshly sweet jasmine scent is J. officinale, also called common jasmine and poet's jasmine. It's a fast-growing vine with finely divided leaves. It twines but not aggressively and sometimes needs occasional tying to a trellis. Once it's established, it can bloom from June through July and August with abundant small white flowers.

Some jasmines grow as vines but can double as shrubs. Tie them to a trellis as a vine, or let them fold over on themselves to form a shrubby mound. J.floridum is a vining shrub with yellow unscented flowers that mounds up to about five feet tall. Italian jasmine (J. humile) has scented yellow flowers and mounds up to 10 feet tall. Primrose jasmine (J. mesnyi) has bright yellow unscented flowers that bloom mainly in late winter or spring rather than summer. It can be grown as a vine or shrubby mound or clipped and used as a hedge.

Dwarf jasmine (J. parkeri) is an evergreen shrub with unscented yellow flowers that is a good choice for spring bloom in small spaces. It grows to about one foot.

All jasmines grow best in sun and a warm site with moderately fertile soil. They need water in the summer while they're getting started, and as established plants they still need moisture during the summer.

The popular dark-green vine with the strongly nutmeg-scented flowers called star jasmine is not really a jasmine. It's Trachelospermum jasminoides, also called Confederate jasmine. This plant will grow on a trellis or other support to 20 feet and more. Without support it can be used as a ground cover. Bell says it can be a good choice to spill over a wall or down a steep bank.

Author: Davi Richards
Source: Neil Bell