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Lift above the old routine; let jasmine take your breath away

Italian jasmine (left) and Spanish jasmine are not as well known as other varieties, but they are two of the most versatile and fragrant types suitable for Tucson's climate.

Italian jasmine (left) and Spanish jasmine are not as well known as other varieties, but they are two of the most versatile and fragrant types suitable for Tucson's climate.

The first truly warm days are sure to boost many types of jasmine into their bloom cycle, so it’s no wonder we associate warmth with the wonderful fragrance of these flowers.

There are many types of jasmine for varying amounts of sun and temperature requirements – so if you feared that jasmine is a tropical delight to be enjoyed when visiting Hawaii only, think again! Many types will flourish in Tucson.

The very first of the season is Pinwheel or Pink Jasmine (Jasminum polyanthum). This is a subtropical vine that does need some frost protection. It can take full sun, but will still bloom even if it is in a semi-sunny spot, which sometimes is the key in natural frost protection. In nature, tender vines will climb trees that can offer them a bit of coverage during the winter. Pink Jasmine has quite a heavy fragrance, but is usually a welcome delight in the very beginning of the season.

Carolina Jessamine (Gelsimium sempervirens), the next to bloom, really isn’t a true jasmine. Though it has a very light, sweet fragrance and its bright gold flowers signal the fact that warm weather is around the bend, it really doesn’t have enough fragrance, nor is it a vigorous enough grower to fit the profile that most other jasmines have.

Another extremely fragrant and wonderful vine called a jasmine – but is not – is Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides). This vine is hardy to the mid-20s and blooms even in the shadiest of locations. The scent is most definitely very similar to true jasmines and its plethora of pure white flowers work hard to convince us that it is a jasmine – but alas, it is not even in the jasmine plant family! But don’t let that stop you from enjoying it and utilizing it in places too shady for true jasmines to flower.

Two old world jasmines that too few people know are Spanish Jasmine (Jasminum grandiflorum) and Italian Jasmine (Jasminum humile). While these plants are not happy to be subjected to temperatures that dip below the mid-20s they love to bask in the sun and their vigorous vines will flow over walls, down hillsides or up (and over) trees if you let them. They are both very sweetly fragrant, never too heavy or cloying; the flowers are large and long lasting; Spanish jasmine is ivory white while its Italian cousin is brilliant yellow.

There are only two other bright-yellow true jasmines; one is Primrose Jasmine (Jasminum mesneyi), and though this is the hardiest jasmine, quite willing to stay green and beautiful through temperatures in single digits – alas, its gorgeous flowers have no scent. The other is Showy Jasmine (Jasminum floridum), a very versatile landscape plant that blooms almost continually March through October. Its scent is very light and though the flowers are very plentiful they’e not big enough to attract the attention shown to its relatives.

As the season gets warmer, tropical jasmines gear up for many months of prolonged blooming. All of these are white flowered, very fragrant and hardy only to slight brushes with temperatures below 30 degrees. Arabian Jasmine (Jasminum sambac) is famous and well known throughout much of the world. It is the “Pikake” found in Hawaii; it is used in teas in the Orient; it is of greatest importance in cultural ceremonies in Indonesia, Java and Bali; and one finds it everywhere in India, woven into hair and clothing. This jasmine has its natural single-flowered form as well as a hybridized double-flowering form called “Grand Duke.”

Another tropical very worthy of mention is Angelwing Jasmine (Jasminum nitidum). It also blooms continually and its form lends itself beautifully to everything from hanging baskets to trellises.

There is surely a jasmine perfect for your location!

Cathy Bishop, co-owner of Mesquite Valley Growers Nursery, has more than 30 years of gardening experience. E-mail her at familyplus@tucsoncitizen.com.

Citizen Online Archive, 2006-2009

This archive contains all the stories that appeared on the Tucson Citizen's website from mid-2006 to June 1, 2009.

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For all of the stories that were archived by the Tucson Citizen newspaper's library in a digital archive between 1993 and 2009, go to Morgue Part 2

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