Water Jasmine

A Tiny Fragrant Star

Winter is my time for basement gardening.  Where we live we have to put our tropical plants in the basement for the winter.  It’s a lot of labor to go through twice a year.  We take them in when we know that the night temperature will drop and stay below 45°F, usually around late September or early October.  Then take them back out in spring when the temperatures will stay above 45°F at night.  It was easy when they were small but it gets much harder once some of them grow taller than us.  But it’s always a pleasure to have them around.  They keep me going in winter and give us fresh herbs even when the ground is covered with snow outside.

Basement garden- with Kaffir lime in the foreground. The tropical plants reside here under plant lights during winter
Basement garden- with Kaffir lime in the foreground. The tropical plants reside here under plant lights during winter

Tropical plants that are taller than us in addition to Kaffir lime and the Ficus, are the Water Jasmines (Wrightia religiosa), of which we have two, one over six feet tall and the other is around 1.5 foot tall.  I grew both of them from seeds.  I did try air layering once but that plant survived only a couple of years.

Water Jasmine provide plenty of fragrant flowers for months during summer.
Water Jasmine provide plenty of fragrant flowers for months during summer.  Each flower blooms for a day but it flowers continuously.
The branches spread out in layers with flowers under each layer
The branches spread out in layers with flowers under each layer
Each little branches fill with tiny white flowers
Each little branch fills with tiny, fragrant white flowers
Clustered of flowers
A cluster of flowers
A closer look at the flower
A closer look at the flower
A cluster of white flowers that ready to bloom once the opening ones drop
A cluster of white flower buds ready to bloom once the open ones drop

They never flower when they are in the basement.  I guess it’s not quite warm enough and perhaps not enough light.  The taller one gets very finicky with temperature changes too.  It drops 95% of its leaves when we first take it outside or when we bring it back inside.  Leaves and flower buds come out again after a month in full sun.  The tiny white star-shaped flower has a light, soothing fragrance.  Each flower blooms for just one day but there clusters of replacements ready to bloom in its place.

When they are outside and in full bloom, various types of bees, honeybees included, come for the nectar during the day and the moths take over at night.  Its seed pod is also interesting, it looks like a wishbone.  Once it’s matured the pods split open and release seeds with a silky thread attached that the wind will catch and carry to a new place.  That is how I propagate it, by the seeds.  The plant grown from a seed takes a few years before it will flower.  Air-layer and cutting are recommended for faster flowering.

Its seedpods look like wishbone
Its seedpods look like a wishbone
Mature seedpods spliced open with seeds with silky thread
Mature seedpods opened up exposing seeds, each with a silky thread
Seeds I keep for propagation
Seeds I keep for propagation

Water Jasmine is easy to grow in a pot, as I do.  It needs a warm temperature and plenty of sunlight to bloom. It can be planted outside in USDA Zone 8 and up.  If planting outside it can be used as a hedge.  It can also be trained to create a Bonsai.

It seems to have no known pests when growing outside, however Spider mites are the main problem when growing indoors.  I use an insecticide soap to get rid of them and mist the plant with water weekly.  I’m looking forward to germinating some of these seeds in March and hope to have a few more to create Bonsai from.

Sweet Autumn Clematis

Dependable For Late Season

It can grow more than 30 feet in a single season, climb and entwine on everything within its reach.  The UPS, FedEx and USPS people no longer drop shipments off on our patio since they are not sure they can go under the thick overhanging vine covering the walkway.  My fault!  I draped the young vine over the walkway without thinking of the resulting consequences.

I was describing our Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis terniflora).  It covers two sides of our patio, providing us with a green screen from summer to late fall.  Around late summer and early fall it is blanketed with small white, lightly fragrant flowers, lots of them.  The fragrance is much more pronounced when the temperature is on the cool side.  The flowers are so abundant that my neighbor thought I had covered part of our patio roof with a white cloth.  We sat outside enjoying the flowers and a little wine during the last full moon.  It was quite a show: a blanket of fragrant white flowers under the moonlight.  It was a wonderful way to unwind after a long day at work.

More pluses: It doesn’t require much care, just feed it and give it a good pruning once a year in spring.  The bees, butterflies and moths love it.   It also provides a hiding place for birds.  When there is not much else blooming late in the season, this clematis brings life as well as providing food.

Lots of small white fragrant flowers
Lots of small white fragrant flowers
Close up
Close up
Covering part of the patio roof on the pool deck side
Covering part of the patio roof on the pool deck side
On the walkway side
On the walkway side

There is a walkway to the patio, bottom left, that was reduced down to a four foot high gap.  This happened in just one season!

Later Summer For Tropical Plants

About Time To Go Back To Winter Camp

It’s a little bit too cold for mid-September this year.  Some nights the temperature has gone down below 40°F and hovered around mid 50°F during the day.  But it has gone up to 70°F during in the last two days.  The thirty degree gap between high and low temperatures makes it difficult for me to decide whether to move the tropical plants back down to the basement.   Although it’s not yet freezing, these plants don’t like to stay in a temperature below 50°F, but I do want them to get real sunlight as long as possible.  I think I’ll move them this weekend if it doesn’t rain.  Better safe than sorry since many of them have been with me for many years.  They have been putting up with confinement (in a pot) all these years so I shouldn’t discomfit them further.  The weather may not have been on their side this summer but they still offered fragrant flowers throughout the summer and some of them are still pushing to bloom even when it’s a little bit too cold for them.

'Azores' jasmine
‘Azores’ jasmine

‘Azores’ jasmines (Jasminum azoricum) have just produced new flower buds that will blossom when they’re already in the basement.  They flowered through mid-winter while residing in our basement last year.

'Poet'
‘Poet’

‘Poet’ Jasmine (Jasminum grandiflorum) seems to like cold weather.  It started to bloom more when the temperature dropped and is still blooming.

'Belle of India'
‘Belle of India’

‘Belle of India’ jasmine (Jasminum sambac) really struggled this year.  Its’ leaves dropped at one point when it had been raining for a several days and it was forced to sit in water for a bit. It managed to produce a couple of flowers anyway.

'Maid of Orleans'
‘Maid of Orleans’

I repotted, changed the soil and trimmed the roots of the ‘Maid of Orleans’ jasmine (Jasminum sambac) this year.  I gave them a close pruning as well.  It’s a ritual I do every couple of years for all the potted plants so they can have fresh dirt and more leg room.  They respond well by producing bigger flowers abundantly.

Almond verbena
Almond verbena

Almond verbena (Aloysia virgata) is happy after receiving a crew cut early this spring.  It can grow pretty lanky and floppy when it doesn’t get enough sunlight.  Now it’s a little more compact and blooming better too.

Orange Jasmine
Orange Jasmine

Orange Jasmine (Murraya paniculata) produced a lot of flowers earlier this summer and is still flowering here and there.  Their three inch tall offspring seems to want to flower as well.  Maybe because they are closer to the house and warmer.

Tuberose

Not Many Flowers, But Enough To Give Me Hope

I’ve been buying one or two stems of Tuberose (Polianthes tuberosa) at the Union Square Farmer’s Market for the last couple of years.  I love its fragrance, very sweet and unique.  The scent brought me back to my childhood when my grandmother grew them in her garden.  The memory of  walking in the garden when they were in full bloom will always stay with me.  The long stems with pure white flowers that opened up, one or two at a time, like a small version of Gladiolus.  I was allowed to cut them just to make an offering, nothing else.  I guess it was because it was mainly used in a funeral  arrangement over there at that time.   The name in the local language means ‘to hide a smell’.  The locals probably used the flowers in the temple during a funeral ceremony before embalming existed, hence the name.   When you put a lot of Tuberose together, you won’t smell anything else but the sweetness of the flowers.  It’s like being in a room full of Oriental Lilies or Hyacinths, if you’re not sure how strong Tuberose is.

Anyway, I was warned by the farmer who sold me the Tuberose flowers about the difficulty of growing it in this latitude.  He said I can grow them but they won’t flower because the hot season is not long enough for the plant to develop flower buds.  He added that in the Northern part of the US it’s grown successfully only in a greenhouse.  His answer discouraged me from trying to grow them for a few years.

What have I got to loose?  I can’t get Gardenia and Ginger Lily to flower but I still grow them.  Hopefully one of these years they will give me a break and flower.   I decided to try growing tuberose this year with three small bulbs.   They have taken their sweet time to come up from under the soil but, to my surprise, one of them bloomed.  There are just two flowers on the long stem but they are enough to give me hope.

The unopened buds have a pink tint at the tips
The unopened buds have a pink tint at the tips
Fully opened.  Pure white with strong sweet fragrant
Fully opened. Pure white with strong sweet fragrant

Water Jasmine

Another Fragrant Flower

Someone named this small tree ‘Water Jasmine’ (Wrightia religiosa Benth.ex Kurz).  I guess because its flower is white and fragrant though it is not a shrub.  This Water Jasmine can grow 10 to 15 feet high and frequently grows right next to fresh water.  I have grown this plant from seed and it’s been with me for 15 years but I couldn’t let it grow that high.  Since it’s a tropical in origin, it won’t survive the winter here in the Northeast U.S. so it spends the winter in the basement with other tropical plants.  It would drop almost all its leaves twice a year: when I bring it down to the basement and when I bring it back outside in spring.  I think it resents the drastic change in temperature with each trip.

The little star shaped white flowers bloom in a cluster on the underside of the branch.  It has a lightly sweet fragrance that grows stronger in the evening and the bumblebees love it.   It blooms year round in the tropics but profusely when the temperature is cooler.  Mine wont bloom in the basement but blooms profusely in summer when outside.

As I understand it the Water Jasmine is considered an auspicious plant that will bring happiness and peace to the person or household that is growing it.  I’m not really sure how that belief came to be but I can only vouch for the fact that its scent is pretty soothing.  It is also a pretty tough plant.  It’s hard to kill once established.

Cluster of small star shape flowers on the underside of the branch
Cluster of small star shape flowers on the underside of the branch
These little flowers will open for just a day.
These little flowers will open for just a day.
The small fragrant flowers close up
The small fragrant flowers close up

Poet Jasmine

The Poet

Yes, someone named this jasmine ‘Poet’ or ‘French Perfume’ (Jasminum grandiflorum).  I’m not sure I like the name or the scent best.  I can see why it get this name.  One whiff of its scent and you can write a few lovely lines of  poetry.  If you keep sniffing it, you may be able to pull a Robert Frost act.

It’s a lovely vine with very dark green leaves and 1.5 inch white flowers.  Its fragrance is a little bit sweeter than the Jasminum sambac and  seems to do well when the weather gets a little colder.  The temperature has been hovering around 50 degrees or lower at night and gone up to 60 or 70 during the day here.   It started to bloom as soon as the temperature dropped and blooms profusely now while the  Jasminum sambac like Maid of Orleans and Grand Duke of Tuscany are producing less and smaller flowers than in the heat of summer.  The Poet flowers also last longer than a day, but are not as fragrant when picked and taken into the house.  So, using it as an air-freshener like the Jasminum sambac is out.  Well, at this time of year we can sit and enjoy it outside longer since it is too cold for mosquitoes to fly around.  Maybe that was nature’s intent.

Pure white 1.5 inch flowers with a sweet fragrance
The blossom close up

Clematis ‘Sweet Autumn’

Snow in Fall

I’ve been doing my best to create a garden that have flowers from early spring to late fall, both day and night.  It’s getting there but I don’t know when I’ll finish.  I’m not going to beat myself up for it since a true garden will never be done anyway; it just evolves.  I don’t remember who proclaimed that but it’s a comfort to know that someone out there has the same mentality.

Flowering plants for late spring to early summer are the easiest to find, but there are not that many choices for early spring and late fall.  There are even less selections when it comes to vines.  A few years ago I looked for vines or rambling roses to cover our less than attractive, chain link pool fence, hoping to give us some privacy.  I found Clematis ‘Sweet Autumn’ (Clematis turniflora) in one of the catalogues and ordered two of them.  One of them turned out to be something that I didn’t expect…a Clematis ‘Montana’ (Clematis montana var. rubens).  This is one rare moment I don’t regret getting the wrong merchandise in the mail.

The Clematis ‘Sweet Autumn’ really lives up to its name.  When it blooms it is flooded with small, lightly fragrant white flowers as soon as the temperature drops in September.  We have it climbing up to the patio roof so it looks like there is snow covering that corner of the roof.  It can grow to 30 feet in a season.  I prune it down to the main branch every spring but it grows right back up the roof by mid summer.  Here how it looks by early September…..

Plenty of flowers, hardly see leaves
Climbs right to the corner of the patio roof
With dewey petals in early morning