Gardening Journal: Plant of The Month – Jasminum nudiflorum

February, often the coldest month of the year, grey, dark, wet and feels like winter will never end. While it can feel a little gloomy there is room for a more positive look on things as the Spring bulbs start to sprout and provide a little glimpse of what spring has to offer.

There are many types of scented, summer flowering jasmines that we all are more familiar with. This has meant that we, including me, always forget about our old friend the joyful, bright yellow flowered winter jasmine. The flowers arrive at the end of the winter letting us know that spring is on its way and by doing so it reminds us what a great addition this little, (big), plant can be.

Jasminum nudiflorum maybe common and ordinary and it may have a gawky and sprawling habit if left to its own devices, however it does have some charm and certainly cheerfulness right when you need it at the end of winter. It’s such a generous and reliable plant, a bright spark in the darker months, and you can usually pick a flowering twig or two for the table during any month of the year too.
It grows naturally right across western China and had been cultivated there for centuries before it reached the West. It’s what botanists call a 'scandent' shrub, meaning it climbs and flops about on thin stems. Don’t be put off by that, though; it means that it’s very adaptable. You can grow it to scramble about on banks, or you can plant it to cascade over a retaining wall. But most commonly it’s planted against a wall or fence, as an honorary climber.

Winter jasmine gets by on remarkably little light and its leaves can afford to be small and few because it draws strength from the chlorophyll in its green stems. That in turn means it casts little shade on its neighbours, making it a great plant to tuck in to neat little spaces. To keep it compact make sure its pruned every year though, after flowering and don’t forget to be brutal to keep it contained.

A classic combination is to plant winter jasmine against a wall with pale blue Iris unguicularis at its feet: the yellow flashes on the irises petals pick up the canary yellow of the jasmine at about the same time of year. A summer-flowering clematis might also work using the jasmine for support. Often its just best to underplant with hardy geraniums like Rozanne or psilostemon so the sprawling stems of the geranium can snake their way through the branches of the jasmine and provide a blast of colour in the summer when the jasmine doesn’t have much to say.

Jobs to be done in February:
Ornamental Garden:

• In late February cut back hard (coppice) all the Cornus (Dogwood) to low buds.
• If snow falls – do not let the snow sit on the shrubs, gently shake off to prevent damage.
• Prune Roses creating an open outward facing framework.
• Prune Clematis (late/summer flowering)
• Shape borders to neaten edges.
• In late February – cutback deciduous grasses
• Remove weeds from borders as necessary.
• Prune out dead; diseased or damaged wood from trees and shrubs.
• Complete pruning of Apple/fruit trees if not already done.
• Mulch borders if not already done in Autumn – taking care of emerging bulbs.
• Cut back Hydrangea Preziosa to first healthy buds on stems.
• Cut back Hydrangea Annabelle to a half/third to retain a compact shape.
• Cut back side shoots of wisteria, pruning to two or three buds.
• Plant new climbers such as clematis/honeysuckle
• Prune summer flowering deciduous shrubs that flower on the current years growth – eg Buddleja, lavatera etc.
• Sow hardy annuals for summer colour.

Vegetable Garden:
• Buy seed potatoes and chit tubers by placing them eye end up in trays or egg boxes in a light, cool, frost free place.
• Sow crops like broad beans, lettuce etc and place in greenhouses or coldframes for an earlier harvest.
• Now’s the time if you want to think about planting asparagus – keep weed free and mulch with a thick layer of organic matter.
• Apply general fertiliser like growmore/blood fish and bone to beds.
• Mulch tree and cane fruit after pruning.
• Plant garlic.
• Spray dormant fruit bushes with a plant oil based winter wash to kill overwintering eggs or aphid pests.
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