Scented jasmines offer a variety of flower colours, foliage and habits, says Miranda Kimberley.

J. mesnyi AGM
J. mesnyi AGM

Everyone, trade and consumer alike, has seen jasmine trained round a hoop and sold as a pot plant, and common species such as Jasminum officinale and J. nudiflorum Award of Garden Merit (AGM) grown as shrubs and climbers outside. But actually, when you delve a little deeper, the genus offers a wealth of different types with unusual flower colours, foliage and different habits.

There are 200 species of jasmine from tropical and temperate regions. Part of the olive family, Oleaceae, they are climbers and shrubs — both evergreen and deciduous. They are known for their highly fragrant flowers, which are typically white or yellow and occasionally pink.

The pot plant J. polyanthum AGM is a highly fragrant, pink-budded and then white-flowered species with dark-green foliage. It is a huge bestseller at garden centres.

J. officinale is the common garden jasmine that flowers in the summer. Unlike polyanthum, which is an evergreen, it is a deciduous climber when grown outside in the UK that will reach 12m in height. There are lots of excellent cultivars of officinale, from those with interesting foliage — ‘Aureum’, Fiona Sunrise and ‘Inverleith’ AGM — to those with attractive flowers like ‘Devon Cream’ with its large, creamy white blooms.

Another well-known variety is the yellow-flowered winter jasmine, J. nudiflorum AGM. The flowers are borne before the trifoliate leaves on strong, arching stems. Less well known are: J. parkeri, a dwarf shrubby type that suits rock gardens; J. mesnyi AGM or the primrose jasmine, a tender species with yellow semi-double flowers; and J. humile with lovely bright-yellow, richly perfumed flowers that can be treated as a shrub or trained against a wall as a climber.

There is a full range of hardiness in the genus. Only the winter jasmine is fully hardy. Next down is J. parkeri AGM, which is borderline fully hardy — while it can be grown outside in milder areas, it should not be risked in northern England and Scotland. Even the common J. officinale is only frost-hardy alongside J. humile, J. beesianum, J. fruticans and J. × stephanense.

They need a sunny, sheltered wall in mild parts of the UK. Otherwise grow inside a conservatory or glasshouse. Many jasmines come from tropical climes, so those including J. mesnyi, J. polyanthum AGM, J. rex and J. sambac AGM need the protection of a heated conservatory or glasshouse.

Plant jasmines in a fertile, well-drained soil in full or partial sun. If growing the frost-hardy species outside, give them a sheltered sunny spot facing south or south-west. Otherwise grow them in an unheated conservatory or cold greenhouse with heaters that kick in during a frost.

The few hardier types such as winter jasmine are more tolerant of partial shade. Give them a south-east or north-west aspect. The tender species need warm greenhouse conditions and a minimum night temperature of around 13-15ºC.

What the specialists say

Peter Chapman, managing director, Perryhill Nurseries, East Sussex

"We keep a reasonable selection of jasmines and they are an easy-to-grow genus. There are a few, such as polyanthum and mesnyi, that need a very sheltered site or even a cool conservatory in colder areas. There are a few shrubby ones and some are described as scandent — having a tendency to climb — but these are often used and sold as climbers. If left to their own devices they would form a dense tangle of slender stems.

"J. beesianum with unusual small velvet-red flowers is one and the useful winter-flowering yellow J. nudiflorum another. When used on a wall or fence they build up old growth and dead wood so regular pruning after flowering can keep them looking at their best.

"J. officinale, with its highly perfumed flowers in the summer, is our most popular species, though gardeners are often swayed by something a little more unusual when they see them on the nursery.

"There are a number worth seeking out — ‘Argenteovariegatum’ with creamy variegated leaves, Fiona Sunrise ‘Frojas’ with bright golden leaves and ‘Inverleith’ with bronze new growth and then dark-green foliage. The flower buds are dark-red and open to the usual fragrant white flowers but with red on the back of the petals.

"J. × stephanense may be the only hybrid Jasminum. A cross between beesianum and officinale, it occurs naturally where the two species overlap in China. It is a vigorous plant and needs plenty of space but the pale-pink scented flowers and creamy coloured young growth make it an interesting plant. These are true twining climbers and even though they are vigorous they do not have to get out of hand as they too will respond to pruning to keep them under control."

In practice

John Winterson, deputy buyer, RHS Plant Centres

"The Wisley Plant Centre sells many different Jasminum, with its top seller being J. polyanthum. It’s sold as a houseplant in a 12cm or 14cm pot. Displayed en masse this is a very pick-up-able impulse line, usually because it is in full flower with knockout scent. Displayed near the entrance or tills, the scent cannot be missed.

"Our second-bestselling jasmine is J. officinale — the common jasmine. Sold continually, every month of the year from our A-Z section, it is a good old stalwart and is on most people’s shopping lists for a reliable climber with great scent for the garden.

"We also sell good quantities of ‘Affine’, ‘Inverleith’, ‘Argenteovariegatum’, Fiona Sunrise, ‘Sunbeam’ and ‘Aureum’. All are easy to grow but this gives a nice range to choose from, especially if you want a different coloured foliage to brighten your garden.

"J. nudiflorum, the winter jasmine, is still very popular and a good variety to have at that time of year when there isn’t too much else around. We sell this constantly throughout the year dual-merchandised from the A-Z in both shrubs and our climber sections, although it is more of a wall shrub as it doesn’t actually climb and when in flower it is sold as an impulse line from display tables.

"It is very easy to grow and good for beginner gardeners. It also has our AGM. Other nudiflorum we sell include ‘Mystique’ and ‘Aureum’, and although they are slower-growing they are ideal for those who like the unusual ones.

"J. beesianum is also very popular, with its pinkish-red flowers making a nice change from the usual white. Occasionally you can find in stock J. parkeri, which is a very cute little rock garden jasmine and one to look out for. Jasmines are a great addition to any garden, with the ability to bring the wonderful scent up to nose level, and even those gardens that are often full can always find room for a climber."

Species and varieties

J. beesianum is a vigorous, frost-hardy climber with pale-green leaves and slightly scented, rose-pink flowers that appear in midsummer. Grow them against a sunny wall. Height: 5m. Spread: 3m.

J. humile ‘Revolutum’ AGM (H5) is a variety of the bushy shrub that has a climbing tendency so if grown against a wall it can be trained in. It has lightly scented yellow flowers and is evergreen in sheltered areas, though in areas where leaves fall the green stems still remain a feature. Height and spread: 2.5m.

J. mesnyi AGM (H3) is a large, tender evergreen shrub with glossy, oval, dark-green leaves and semi-double bright-yellow flowers in spring and summer. Height: 2.5m.

J. nudiflorum AGM (H5) — the winter jasmine — is a vigorous, shrubby climber that can be trained up wires or a trellis, or left to scramble freely over low walls. The bright-yellow flowers appear on bare stems in winter and early spring. The stems are bright-green and become clothed in dark-green foliage. Height and spread: 3m.

J. officinale produces clusters of highly fragrant white flowers from June to August and attractive, fine foliage. Its a deciduous climber that will quickly cover a south- or west-facing wall and in small gardens it can be grown in a pot and trained
up a trellis or wall. Height 12m. Spread: 3m.
J. officinale ‘Aureum’ is a form with green and yellow variegated foliage and highly fragrant white flowers from June to September. Height: 4m. Spread: 1m.
J. officinale ‘Devon Cream’ PBR (syn. ‘Clotted Cream’) is a lovely cream-coloured form with larger than usual flowers that have a stronger fragrance. Height and spread: 3m.
J. officinale Fiona Sunrise = ‘Frojas’ AGM is a new form under PBR with golden yellow foliage. Height: 2.5m.
J. officinale ‘Inverleith’ AGM is a vigorous, twining, deciduous climber with bronze new growth becoming dark-green foliage in the summer. It features dark-red flower buds that open to reveal highly fragrant white flowers with red stripes on the back of the petals in summer.

J. polyanthum AGM (H2) is a strong-growing evergreen twiner with dark-green pinnate leaves and pink buds that open into highly fragrant, long-tubed white flowers. Height: 2.5-4m.

J. × stephanense is a vigorous, twining, deciduous climber that produces masses of fragrant
pale-pink flowers in June and July. Can quickly fill a space. Height
and spread: 5m.

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