This is the time of year when some of our gardens have been snow-free for a week or two, the ground is drying quickly and the start of gardening season is close at hand. For others; those who live at elevation and whose properties don’t receive much afternoon sun, there is still significant snow. Along with last week’s snowdrops there is another early bloomer that makes full use of any available sunlight and warmth to brighten our hearts and the landscape. Jasminum nudiflorum, the Winter Jasmine, will throw out sprays of small, starry golden yellow blossoms on bare green stems starting even in late January if the plant can catch enough sunlight on a south or west-facing wall.

Not really a vine, but not a shrub either, Winter Jasmine has slender twig-like branches that, while bare, remain a bright green even in winter. It can be trained onto lattice or a trellis, where it will reach three metres tall if trained. I have seen it used to cover a slope very effectively. It will spread one to two metres across, and the stems root in contact with soil to form new plants. Jasminum nudiflorum is hardy to -25 deg. C but will come back from the roots if it’s killed back during a cold spell. Grows best in full sun, but will be happy in a light shade too. Keep Winter Jasmine tidy by trimming stray branches after blooming.

If you have a warm wall on the house or a south-facing deck you can take full advantage by planting Winter Jasmine and training it upwards. The cheery blossoms are a godsend in winter, even if they are damaged by frosts. Not to worry though; the blooms keep opening for an extended period of time. A great companion plant is Clematis from the viticella group. Their delicate nodding blooms appear in June and last through September as the plant winds it way through the framework of the jasmine. Cut the clematis down to near ground level in fall and let the jasmine work its magic in late winter.

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