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This Jasmine Is a Fine Vine for Flowers and Fragrance

March 07, 1987|ROBERT SMAUS | Smaus is an associate editor of Los Angeles Times Magazine

In full flower this weekend and conspicuous at nurseries is a truly fine vine, one of the jasmines, Jasminum polyanthum . This easiest of all jasmines to grow has no common name, though I noticed that Builders Emporium/Ole's Home Centers is calling it "pink jasmine" in their ads this week.

Though the flowers are jasmine white, the buds and the backs of the petals are a dusky lavender-pink, almost mauve, and from a distance the entire plant in flower has a pinkish cast.

When one says that this vine is in "full" flower, there is no risk of exaggeration. Nothing I can think of flowers so profusely. It is a cascade of white, a foaming waterfall of flowers. And it blooms at a time of year when there is little competition, beginning in February and lasting most of March.

It is also an extremely useful vine, and planting one this weekend would add a great deal to any garden. As you'll note at the nursery, it flowers in a container and can be kept in one for quite a few years.

Unlike so many flowering vines, the "pink" jasmine does not get too large to manage, nor does it grasp or twine (it is not a house wrecker) and, in fact, must be tied to some other support. If you are wondering where to put this vine, let me tell you where a few friends and neighbors grow theirs. Across the street, one neighbor has trained his to grow on top of and along the railing of a deck outside his front door. There are several plants and each has only grown five feet tall--the height of the railing--and about six feet across. In full flower right now, the stems roll off the railing like a wave about to break at the beach and the blossoms perfume the entry, wafting into the house each time the door is opened.

Did I forget to mention fragrance? It is a true jasmine perfume, but a delicate fragrance--just right.

Another friend has a much larger vine trained along the eaves of the house and when in flower it drapes halfway to the ground. It is a good 12 feet tall and perhaps 20 feet across at the eaves and is a wall of white in flower.

Still another acquaintance grows hers in a pot on a balcony, and it cascades over the side.

All of these plantings are in sunny locations. Though this jasmine is supposed to flower best with a full day of sun, most of these plantings only get about a half day's worth, so it would seem to do well in sun or a little shade.

In other words, this is a very versatile vine, and pruning can keep it small or you can allow it to grow as large as 20 feet, though I have never seen one larger than that. To train it, simply tie the branches with that green plastic garden tape to a trellis or a post or any handy support. If you want it to grow tall, trim off most of the lower side branches to encourage the main branch; otherwise it will be fairly bushy.

It must be pruned, because--lest you think this is the perfect plant--the flowers do not fall after they fade, but hang on and must be pruned off. This is best done with a hedge shears, and you needn't be too careful about it. Simply shear the plant into the shape you want. This is the only pruning required. Flowers come on new growth produced during the summer, so the shearing also encourages lots of new flowering branches for next winter.

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