Yesterday on the way home from work, I passed by Waterside in downtown Norfolk. In front of the parking garage is a huge swath of Winter Jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) doing its best to make an ugly building less so. This time of year I look for its flowers as my signal that the end of winter is near. Though late in blooming, they are a welcome sight nonetheless.
The city of Norfolk uses this plant in many municipal plantings, and I am thankful for it. Just when you need a bolt of bright yellow change in the landscape, Winter Jasmine steps up. Can Daffodils and Forsythia be far behind?
Winter Jasmine is a low sprawling shrub with green-in-any-season, long arching branches. It gets about 3-4' tall by 5-6' wide, and can be pruned immediately after flowering if needed. It prefers full sun, but will grow in some shade, only with fewer flowers. It is hardy from zones 6-10 and appreciates good drainage, and in fact is quite drought tolerant once established.
Native to China, this plant was first brought to Western gardens by Robert Fortune, one of history's most interesting plant explores. At a time when much of China was closed to Westerners, Fortune disguised himself as a Mandarin merchant and would travel into forbidden areas in search of new finds. We can thank Mr. Fortune for scores of our most cherished garden plants; Wikipedia has a detailed list of all the species he introduced.
It seems my favorite patch of Winter Jasmine was correct in predicting the eventual demise of winter, for today the temperature actually climbed into the seventies. Since I was off today, I was able to spend the whole day outside doing my best to clear, clean and prune away this long cold winter.