Pictured at left are two vines that bloom with summery exuberance in the dead of winter. Theirs is no paltry show; being vigorous vines, they froth with flowers when most plants are decidedly dormant.
One is a Chinese jasmine, Jasminum polyanthemum , with fragrant flowers white on the inside and a rosy pink on the outside. The flowers bloom in sheets that completely obscure the foliage for at least a month. Then they become a mass of dead brown blossoms that only hedge shears can restore to some sort of order.
Don't expect this vine to be a delicate tracery against a wall. It is a tumbler, a bird's nest of stems that can be trained only up to a point before it must be allowed to spill downward. This jasmine is perfectly suited to low eaves, where it will drape like a white curtain, or you can use it to cover a chain-link fence. It also will bloom in a container--welcome news if you garden on a patio or balcony. You will find blooming plants in nurseries this month.
Normal watering, fertilizing and full sun will cause this vine to grow astonishingly fast. It can cover about 12 to 20 feet of fence, wall or house, or you can train it up into a tree that is deciduous in winter, a favorite use for this vine in the Mediterranean region. The other winter-flowering vine, Gelsemium sempervirens (Carolina jessamine, is s a native of the Southeast and Central America. It blooms bright butter-yellow, and although the flowers are fewer in number than those gracing the Chinese jasmine, they are somewhat bigger, and they are sweetly fragrant. However, all parts of this plant are considered poisonous.
This twining vine is not as rampant as Chinese jasmine; it can be trained against a trellis, but in time it too will become a tangle. Heavy pruning at that point will give it a fresh start. Branches that flower tend to hang down or spray out from the plant, as they do in the photograph. Most vines grow to about 10 feet tall. Full sun and regular watering are its only requirements.
WHEN DOES CINERARIA SEASON BEGIN?
It's a shame cinerarias are so sensitive to freezing weather or they would certainly be one of winter's most popular plants. Botanically, they are Senecio hybridus, and the hybridus hints at an ancestry unknown to botanists but generally thought to be several senecios from the Canary Islands, a frost-free environment. The slightest frost will reduce cinerarias to black mush.
Nevertheless, they need cool weather for optimum development; consequently, they must be grown during winter or early spring. If you garden near the coast or in locations where freezing temperatures are practically unheard of (such as the air-drained mountain slopes of La Canada or Sierra Madre), cinerarias will thrive. The planting pictured here (photographed in March) is at Roger's Gardens in Newport Beach. In coastal gardens, cinerarias may even naturalize, coming back year after year from seed though they show the tendency to get taller and taller with more open sprays of flowers as generation succeeds generation.
Away from the coast, you can try planting them toward the end of the month or in early March and hope for mild weather. Some gardeners love them so much that they faithfully cover up plantings each time that cold weather threatens. Cinerarias need some shade and ample moisture outdoors.
In addition, cinerarias area favorite florist's plant. You can purchase them in bloom and keep them indoors in a cool, bright place.