A winter delight from China

An easy jasmine option for winter colour


Opinion
Winter jasmine and dwarf correa Dusky Bells flower together in July on a dry stony bank.

Winter jasmine and dwarf correa Dusky Bells flower together in July on a dry stony bank.

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This jasmine comes from China, home of so many of our best garden plants, where it has long been popular with floral artists in winter.

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Looking for a few flowers to pick this morning, I came across a lovely winter shrub, a primrose yellow jasmine (J. nudiflorum) blooming its head off in a desiccated spot above a stone wall.

Also in flower and planted nearby was a dwarf correa, 'Dusky Bells', covered in narrow, dark red bells like a collection of miniature chef's hats. I loved the combination of bright yellow and dark red and green in the frosty sunshine - it's always so satisfactory when a planting plan actually comes off, all too rare in my case.

Having said that, a prostrate juniper grevillea (G. juniperana) with small bronze flowers that I'd planted in front to complete the group isn't showing so much as a bud but, it must be said, all gardeners live in hope.

The winter jasmine was in the garden when we moved here thirty years ago and I can vouch for its hardiness. It has dark green, square stems and the scentless flowers appear before the leaves, hence its name, and it suckers freely, growing in time into a knee-high hedge.

This jasmine comes from China, home of so many of our best garden plants, where it has long been popular with floral artists in winter. H. L. Li in his book Chinese Flower Arrangement (1956) suggests it as a companion for the winter apricot, Prunus mume, together with Daphne odora and Camellia japonica, all of which bloom at the same time.

This is an interesting example of the variations in flowering times in different gardens according to aspect and climate. My winter jasmines planted in sheltered, sunny corners flower in early July, but those on a dry, sunny bank have scarcely a bud. I certainly couldn't count on it flowering with my daphne.

This jasmine seems to have fallen out of fashion with nurseries, as happens from time to time. I'll pot up some suckers for when we next open the garden, as it would be sad to see it disappear. It's so easy and pretty and rarely needs extra water, its main requirement is good drainage.

The dark red correa 'Dusky Bells' (don't confuse it with 'Dusty Bells' which is white) is another low-care beauty, growing neatly into a small shrub, about 30 centimetres high and slightly wider across.

There are 11 species of Correa and numerous sub species and cultivars, all endemic to Australia. Apart from their beauty they're an important source of nutrition for birds in winter.

Correa flowers come in two types. Some, like the coastal C. alba, have bell shaped blooms, while the chef's cap correa aka native fuchsias has tubular flowers.

Correas are mostly easy and shade tolerant. C. glabra has fragrant leaves and along with C. alba is the hardiest, withstanding heavy frost and considerable drought.

An underplanting of bulbs would complete my winter picture. I'm thinking paperwhite narcissus, with bunches of heavily scented white flowers throughout winter.

  • Chinese Flower Arrangement by H. L. Li is available in English, Dover Publications, 2002.
  • Also note, the wrong version of "In Fiona's Garden" appeared in the July 11 print edition of The Land. This is the article that should have appeared.
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