If a plant is unusual and if it is fragrant I will want it. If it is rare in the wild (but not threatened by me growing it) then I will want it more. So when I had the chance to buy a tender jasmine (not the ubiquitous J. polyanthum – which is perfectly lovely) I jumped through hoops to get it. It was a long story but it involved unpotting it and carefully nurturing it through winter (along with a Jasminum sambac which I will post about when the first flower opens, which should be soon) and coaxing it into growth in the unheated greenhouse in spring. It slowly recovered but I was so worried about overdoing the watering that it was held back and it was only when I thought that it needed to buck up its ideas and I potted it more generously (in loam-based compost) and started to feed generously, that it made some decent growth and is now covered in buds. It is, so far, easier to please than I feared.
The plant is Jasminum azoricum, a climber with three-parted leaflets. It is not hardy as you would expect of a plant that is native to the Atlantic island of Madeira. It is very rare in the wild, found only in two locations on the island, but is well established in cultivation, having been grown in The Netherlands since 1724. It even has the RHS AGM (Award of Garden Merit) which seems slightly strange. Like all climbing jasmines, it twines, and it can reach 5m or more in height. It has a long season of bloom and my plant, sunning itself in the greenhouse, is flowering rather than making much vegetative growth. I need to work out some sort of good support for it because I will have to move it to the (darker and warmer) conservatory in late autumn and I have already noticed (the hard way) that the growth is very brittle, especially at the joints.
References say it is also called the lemon-scented jasmine and that the flowers have a citrus perfume. I can’t really agree. I think they have a similar scent to the hardy J. officinale but even headier. This is the reason I love it so much – it reminds me of the tropics and the rich perfumes of gardenia, frangipani and brugmansia that you can almost see streaming from the flowers on a hot, still evening. The flowers are about 2cm across, pure white, opening from green, then white buds, not pink as often stated. They have five, narrow petals (sometimes six) and I have a stem in a vase in front of me and as new flowers open and old ones drop, it is like a constantly changing constellation. The blooms are always perfumed but the fragrance is strongest at night. You can probably guess that I like this!
The plant is in the greenhouse next to Sinningia tubiflora and the two vie for having the sweetest of scents.