Common name: Winter jasmine
Botanical name: Jasminum nudiflorum
Botanical family: Oleaceae, the olive family, along with lilac, forsythia and ash
The winter jasmine carries bright yellow flowers, flat-faced, rounded with six petals and about 2 cm in diameter. These are carried on slender, green stems, branching and arching. The habit of growth is described as scandent which describes a loose, floppy structure. It does not really produce stems with enough woody strength to support its whippy branches. As a result, it forms a trailing sort of plant, sprawling but not creating a surface mat of shoots, more like a mound. It is deciduous, the smallish leaves falling in autumn, but the loss is hardly noticeable because of the rush-green flowering stems. The flowers are produced over a period of time between late autumn and early spring, and are invaluable to give a lift to the winter garden.
Because of its inability to support itself, winter jasmine is usually planted against a wall or on a bank. It rarely grows more than one metre tall, unless it is supported by wires fitted to a wall, fence or trellis. The bright yellow flowers are well set off by the red berries of the herring-bone Cotoneaster horizontalis, also arching, and the two shrubs are often planted together for this effect.
While jasmine of various kinds is much lauded for its rich, sweet, night perfume, this particular species is not scented at all.
Winter jasmine is quite robust and can tolerate a good deal of strong wind, although significant exposure to wind can shorten the life of flowers and tousle the natural arching form of the stems. The plant is hardy, the flowers even tolerating a coat of ice, although this shortens their flowering period.
Winter jasmine is not at all choosy about soil and will grow happily in any ordinary soil, limy or acidic, heavy or light. The soil should not be too rich because this encourages overvigorous growth at the expense of greater flowering. This jasmine species has a great propensity to strike roots wherever stems are in contact with the soil more than a few months, typically amid decaying, fallen leaves.
Although herbs are usually associated with summertime, there is a surprising range of herbs available for winter use. The best-known ones are, of course, the traditional parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. Along with those are chives, fennel, coriander, chervil, garlic, mint and bay laurel, possibly French tarragon and marjoram or oregano.
Some of these are hardy permanent residents of the garden, including bay laurel, sage and rosemary and thyme, tree-size, in the case of the laurel, and robust, low shrubs in the case of the others. Most of the others perform best with some shelter from the worst of winter weather, the important used parts usually being the foliage.
The polythene tunnel or greenhouse can be used to give longevity to herb plants. Some kinds, such as fennel, French tarragon, oregano or marjoram, mint and winter savoury are perennial plants. These plants all tend to lose their leaves in a harsh winter outdoors, but very often in an average year some portion of the foliage can be retrieved. The extent of success is greatly increased and these plants are brought under protection, growing in pots, or planted within the protective structure itself.
Some herbs are biennials, meaning they grow the first season and flower in the second. These include parsley, coriander and dill and these are sown in late summer, growing to good-sized plants protected by the polythene for winter use. A polythene tunnel or greenhouse is ideal for winter herbs, which also can be brought in with the assistance of a cold frame, low polythene tunnel or horticultural fleece. While winter-picked herbs are not as pungent generally as those grown in summer, they are still better than dried herbs, the flavour of which tends to be lost to some degree.
Fruit, vegetables and herbs
Fruit tree pruning can be carried out, except on plums. Fruit trees and bushes can be planted if the soil is not too wet. Overgrown herb plants can be cut back or divided and re-planted. Compost heaps can be dug out and the compost spread for digging in soon.
Trees, shrubs and roses
Check on young trees that they are not developing bad forking habits and remove one side of a fork if necessary. It is easy to see these problems now that the leaves are gone. Delay tree planting if the ground is very wet. Roses can be pruned at any time from now.
The rain of recent weeks has left lawns very soft and effectively has brought the mowing season to a close, at least for now. It can be very damaging to the soil structure of a lawn to walk over its surface when it is wet, but there will be occasional spells of dry weather.
Put out a few winter/spring bedding plants for a bit of colour in containers or use some evergreen plants to give life to the garden close to the house entrance. If the ground is wet, do not undertake division and re-planting. The Christmas rose was on time this year