Sunday, September 7, 2014

Night Blooming Jasmine - Sweet Scent of Summer

Some scents are forever etched in our memory, attached to emotions and events. I have a very tender place in my heart reserved for night blooming jasmine. My children were both born in summer's heat. With windows open, hoping for a cool breeze, the jasmine was my company during those quiet midnight feedings. One sniff of the aroma and my heart warms thinking of newborn cuddles. 

When we moved to our second home, the night blooming jasmine came with us. I planted it under the windows which were most likely to be open during the evening. I planted it near our front door too, where it can welcome friends with its intoxicating sweet summer scent. The flowers are tiny and are basically unnoticed during the day as they are hardly seen. They show themselves when the sky darkens, filling the air with aroma which may be too strong for some. 

One small sprig can fill several rooms with scent, so I usually just bring in one or two flowers and float them in a shot glass. Because they are not pretty, the glass is tucked behind something else, my little secret air freshener.

Night blooming jasmine (Cestrum nocturnum) is easy to grow in my Los Angeles area garden. It grows in zones 8-11 as a woody loosely-formed shrub 4-13 ft tall. 
Here it is, out of control. It's the tall one in the middle, covering the window. Fall pruning is around the corner.
The plant tends to be a bit shaggy or unruly, not one that is in my garden because it looks nice. It is here mostly for its fragrance, and I use it in the backs of the beds to form a green backdrop against the wall. The one pictured above is usually kept trimmed below the window box, but it is in full bloom now, so it will be pruned after the blooms finish.

It needs well-drained soil and at least 5-6 hours of sun or partial sun per day. Mine gets 1-2 hours of intense sun, and 3-4 hours of dappled sunlight and it grows like crazy. Our summers are hot and dry and I have noticed this plant does not do well in full sun here, it wilts and struggles.

The leaves are a nice semi glossy bright green, about 4-6 inches long.
Here are some flower buds forming.
They're not much to look at, but the smell is delectable.
When the flowers fade, berries are formed.
As they mature, the berries become pretty white waxy decorations which adorn the plant throughout the winter. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of the white berries. 

The base of the plant is often woody and bare, so I try to keep that in mind when planting it. 

It looks best with something planted in front of it.
It's the tall one on the left.
It also is nice tucked behind Rebecca.
Rebecca at the Well.
The plants tend to be lanky, so they respond well to frequent pinching to promote a more bushy habit. Night blooming jasmine also tolerates severe pruning. I often prune mine to 2-3 ft tall when I prune my roses in January. They can be propagated by cuttings. Place the cut end in water until roots are 1 inch long, then place in the soil. It is common in my garden to have volunteers pop up. They are easily transplanted when the plants reach about 5 inches tall. 

My windows will be open again tonight, all the better to be entranced by sweet scents of summer.

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