Spring arrived in Charleston last week as daffodils and forsythia popped into bloom. Even if you’re not fond of yellow flowers, or you don’t feel they look well with the color of your house, there’s nothing like a little yellow bloom in early spring to lift one’s spirits. It signals the return of sunshine and warm temperatures and the beginning of another year of garden enjoyment.
There’s a beautiful new bank of yellow bloom in Charleston, just above the south end of the South Side bridge. The plants are too low growing for forsythia and the bloom is more sulphur yellow than golden yellow. The arching groundcover is Naked Jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum, so named because, like many early spring bloomers, plants bloom on leafless stems.
Years ago, a friend ripped out a planting of Naked Jasmine and gave it to me. Some winters the buds freeze and you get no bloom and she wanted the garden space for later blooming plants. I took the plants home and foolishly sited them on a north facing bank below some white pines. The bank does not get as much sun as the plants would like, nor does it provide a warm microclimate for good late winter bloom. This year my plants are blooming their heads off as I write this and are just beautiful.
Naked Jasmine, like kerria, has bright green stems in the winter. Over time, however, the old stems turn brown, and just the new ones are green. Also over time, the plants build up a lot of dead wood under the live, much the way ivy or cotoneaster does.
I can see all the dead wood in my plants now, but am loathe to cut them back because there are critters living in the shelter of these plants. I know this because my dog sniffs the planting excitedly each day and tries to burrow under the stems. My dog weighs 75 pounds, so I don’t allow her to satisfy her curiosity and destroy my planting, or disturb the rabbits or birds or other small animals that are taking shelter there. At some point though, I will give the planting a renewal pruning and cut the plants back hard, getting rid of all the dead wood.
Naked Jasmine can get four feet tall and can grow as wide as seven feet around. It’s hardy to zone 6, and would probably survive in a protected spot in zone 5. I’ve read that it can also be trained on a trellis or wall and can grow to 15 feet tall if handled this way. It could be an interesting plant to espalier on a wall. It’s not a plant I see used in many gardens in our area, which is too bad, because it’s a tough, garden worthy plant.
Choose the Vine, Then the Trellis
For those of you adding a trellis or pergola to the garden this year, there are many styles to choose from. Before you make a selection, it’s a good idea to decide what vine you want to grow on it. Some vines twine themselves around a trellis, like clematis and morning glories, and some vines need to be woven through a trellis, like climbing roses, or Naked Jasmine.
A trellis with closely spaced supports or grid work will work best for the twining vines. One with supports farther apart will make it easier to weave or tie woodier stems onto it.
Some vines, like wisteria and trumpet vines, make tender vining growth when young, but turn woody and rambunctious as they age. A sturdy wooden pergola is a more appropriate choice for either of these than a slender little metal trellis.
Also, pay attention to how tall a vine will get. Matching a variegated kiwi vine that can grow 20 feet long with a six foot trellis is not a good idea. A clematis that will get six feet tall, like the white Henryi, would be a better match.
Some vines, like climbing hydrangeas, will climb brick or stone walls without support. Some plants, like climbing roses, will not and would need to have supports attached to the mortar of the wall, so the rose could be tied to the supports.
If you allow a vine to climb a wall, remember that you will have to maintain the vine, keeping it trimmed away from windows and woodwork. Climbing hydrangeas can grow 60 feet, so be prepared to get up on a big ladder as your plant matures.