Pe­ter Dow­dall

On Tracheleosper­mum jas­mi­noides which pro­vides sum­mer scent and strik­ing win­ter colour

Irish Examiner - Property & Interiors - - In The Garden -

Nor­mally, when I talk about sea­sonal colour in au­tumn and win­ter, I re­fer to de­cid­u­ous plants whose dis­play is a pre­cur­sor to leaf drop as the plants di­vest them­selves of un­nec­es­sary fo­liage for the win­ter.

The au­tumn colour dis­play is caused by drop­ping chloro­phyll lev­els in the plant com­ing into win­ter and as a re­sult, the colour of the other pig­ments can be seen. Thus the reds, cop­pers and or­anges are re­vealed - colours we are so used to at that time of the year.

Tracheleosper­mum jas­mi­noides, how­ever, is an ever­green plant which doesn’t drop its leaves each year and which is look­ing ab­so­lutely breath­tak­ing at the mo­ment. The botan­i­cal name may be a bit of a mouth­ful, but it’s known as Ever­green Jas­mine or Star Jas­mine and like the true Jas­mine, it flow­ers dur­ing the sum­mer, pro­duc­ing masses of sweetly scented white flow­ers which will whisk you right back to those sum­mer evenings spent in warmer climes.

It’s a climb­ing plant and needs a wall or some such struc­ture to sup­port its ram­bling habit. Ever­green jas­mine also needs a south or west-fac­ing as­pect, de­light­ing in the amount of sun­light such a po­si­tion will give it, and re­fus­ing to thrive in an area that’s less bright. It sim­ply will not tol­er­ate a north fac­ing wall with no sun­shine.

In terms of soil it will tol­er­ate most pro­vid­ing it’s well drained and whilst it is not ph sen­si­tive to a great de­gree, I have found the leaf colour to be bet­ter in slightly acidic soils, so per­haps a mulch with some er­i­ca­ceous com­post once a year is ad­vis­able.

It will also thrive in a coastal gar­den, not some­thing that you may ex­pect from a plant as del­i­cate look­ing as this one. Its waxy leaves, how­ever, work well in re­duc­ing tran­spi­ra­tion and pro­tect it from the worst of the salt winds in such ar­eas. De­cid­ing on which climb­ing plants to use in your gar­den is a big de­ci­sion, as which­ever you choose will have a huge pres­ence, cov­er­ing wall space, sheds and even climb­ing up trees. It’s im­pos­si­ble not to no­tice es­tab­lished climbers.

So, it’s even more im­por­tant that you choose a va­ri­ety that you like and that of­fers colour and in­ter­est at all times of the year.

This is where the Tracheleosper­mum comes into its own; the fact that it’s ever­green means, plainly enough, that it will give fo­liage in­ter­est all year round and that you’re not left look­ing through masses of bare stems and branches for sev­eral months dur­ing the win­ter.

As gar­dens get smaller or, as is the case with many gar­den­ers, fuller, then the plants that we choose be­come more im­por­tant and we need to be clever when de­cid­ing on which are given valu­able space.

Don’t look at your walls as places to be cov­ered as quickly and cheaply as pos­si­ble, rather look at them as an op­por­tu­nity to add an ex­tra di­men­sion to the gar­den and to bring the colour and beauty up from the ground.

Cer­tainly, the best flow­er­ing climbers tend to be of the Clema­tis and Rosa gen­era va­ri­eties, but both groups are largely de­cid­u­ous so what then for the win­ter months? You could look at plant­ing them with other climbers which will be ever­green and thus have the best of both worlds.

Ever­green Jas­mine of­fers not just scented white flow­ers dur­ing the sum­mer, nor the added bonus of con­stant fo­liage — but it also takes on this cop­pery, red sea­sonal look over the win­ter that re­ally sets it apart.

Each sea­son it of­fers some­thing of in­ter­est, mak­ing it wor­thy of in­clu­sion and to have two sen­sa­tional dis­plays dur­ing the year on an oth­er­wise ever­green plant makes it an ab­so­lute must for the gar­den.

Plant it near the house, some­where where you will ben­e­fit from the scented blooms dur­ing the sum­mer and from where you can ad­mire its colour at the mo­ment, to help lift the sea­sonal gloom. No point hav­ing it do­ing its thing down in a far cor­ner of the gar­den where only the lo­cal wildlife will get to en­joy its beauty.

The won­der­ful thing about gar­dens and gar­den­ing is that it is one of these pur­suits that’s avail­able to all. You don’t need a great big gar­den in the coun­try to en­joy this plant. Even if all that you have is an apart­ment bal­cony you can grow this beauty pro­vided you have good lev­els of sun­light. Sim­ply grow it in a big enough pot and train it over the door­way or win­dow and you will en­joy the green­ery, scent and colour all year long.

Star Jas­mine: To have two sen­sa­tional dis­plays dur­ing the year on an oth­er­wise ever­green plant makes it an ab­so­lute must for the gar­den.

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