Jasmines are popular evergreen climbers, grown for their easy-going nature and prolific covering of scented flowers, writes JENNIFER STACKHOUSE
Jasmines are roughly divided into two groups. There are true jasmines – those in the genus Jasminum – and jasmine-like plants, which have fragrant, usually white flowers that resemble jasmine but are not classified as Jasminum. Probably the best known of the true jasmines is the one that I call ‘stinky pinky’, more formally known as J. polyanthum. It is an evergreen, twining climber, with tubular, white flowers that open from clusters of pink buds. The scent is sweet and penetrating.
This jasmine proclaims that spring and warmer weather are on the way by flowering in late winter, especially if it has found a spot along a sunny wall or hanging over a fence. One or two heads bloom in the winter sunshine with just a whiff of perfume – enough to excite, yet not overwhelm – but as spring arrives, its fragrance ratchets up to knockout level. For some unlucky people, that first hint of jasmine is the signal that the hayfever season is on its way.
Stinky pinky isn’t exactly a tidy plant, and it isn’t well behaved, but it’s easy to grow and is free of pests or diseases. It happily roams away from its home planting, spreading tendrils and runners everywhere. In many old suburbs, this jasmine is lumped with morning glory, ivy and honeysuckle as a weedy climber that’s hard to control. Giving the plants a prune when they have finished flowering and again in summer helps keep them in check.
There are 200 or so species of jasmine native to regions across Asia, Europe and Africa. All are part of the olive family (Oleaceae). Most are not badly behaved like stinky pinky. J. officinale is a sprawling shrub that is usually trained as a climber. It blooms from summer well into autumn, in sun or shade, and sports loose clusters of fragrant, white flowers. As this jasmine is never as heavily in bloom as old stinky pinky, its scent isn't overwhelming or cloying.
“It happily roams away from its home planting, spreading tendrils and runners everywhere”