Peter Dowdall says Tracheleospermum jasminoides is a stalwart plant for summer scent and striking winter colour.
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.