Thursday, April 12, 2012

Forty Blooms of Jasmine...

So after three weeks of anxious waiting and watering, I am thrilled to announce that my Chinese Jasmine is blooming! The smell is intoxicating, and when you enter the herb room at night, it fills the air next to the windows with the most exquisite perfume, heady and delicate all at once.

Jasminum polyanthum is apparently such a good climber (mine has tendrils that are well over three feet) that it's become invasive in places like Australia, where it acts as a smothering ground cover. And in warmer climates like Florida, it's considered an awesome way to cover up yukky-looking fences and walls. As a cultivated botanical, it prefers to be potbound (finally - my kind of plant!), and can usually recover from (ahem) mistreatment or neglect, aka that time last summer when I left it outside and forgot to water it on a super hot day week and all the leaves fell off.

Despite all this, here in New Hampshire it is decidedly not a year-round outdoor plant, and it takes some fairly specific growing instructions to keep it happy:

Fertilize except right after flowering. Keep it dryish in winter and moist the rest of the year. Give it lots of sun and warm weather except in Autumn, when it needs at least six weeks of cold temperatures to "set" the buds. In Winter it wants lots of light and cool temperatures, at which point the buds will start to form. Prune it like crazy after it blossoms, and propagate the 4" cuttings in moist soil. Finally, give it something to climb on.

All of this was a bit confusing to me, because I didn't really notice anything happening in Fall, followed by a sudden growth of tendrils a few months ago. I actually cut it back pretty significantly in January (totally wrong season, oops!) where it still hadn't recovered from sun exposure, and much to my surprise, it started sending out tendrils. And leaves! And then -  buds! And then.... 

...we still had buds. And a week later... we still had buds. Every day I'd check them each time I'd go in or out of the house, and every time I'd think "Soon. Any day now..."

This went on for a month. I was beginning to think I'd really screwed things up and maybe they just weren't going to open, when last week - one did. It smelled like heaven. I was so happy I almost cried. (It's the little things, you know)?

I carefully picked it and placed it on a wooden tray to dry, and I must have gone over and sniffed it about thirty times that day. One tiny little star-shaped blossom, with a yellow center peeking through its translucent stem, and the most magnificently exotic floral fragrance. And it was there, in part, because of me. Even though I'd let it dry out and I'd pruned it in the wrong season, it had bloomed; a fragrant acknowledgment that sometimes doing your imperfect best is plenty good enough. And I had - I'd been there to water it and move it inside and outside and make sure it had enough light and nice things to grow on and its runners were cut when they needed it, and I'd talked to it and trained it carefully to grow where it had room to stretch, and in myriad small ways, that flower's existence was linked with mine, for good.

Anyway, by the next morning there were two more open blossoms. That night, there were three. Then five.

After that, it was like popcorn.

I've stopped counting, but every day I pick more and put them carefully in a jar of meadowfoam seed oil. I've seen pictures of tropical places where they cover entire walls and doorways with tens of thousands of flowers. I'll be lucky to get forty. But oh, those forty fragrant blooms, each one a gift...

Blackbird's Daughter

Copyright (c) 2009-2014 Jessica Bellantone. Please email me when reproducing content. Thank you! Registered & Protected