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Green thumb: the scent of spring

WHEN the scent of jasmine (jasminum polyanthum) is in the air, you can be sure that spring has arrived.

Jasmine is a quick-growing evergreen vine with small deep green leaves. The numerous clusters of bright pink buds open to pure white star-shaped flowers which are intensely fragrant, a sweet, spicy, heady fragrance that is absolutely unmistakable.

Jasminum polyanthum is native to western and southern China. The growing tips twine and curl around whatever support they can find. Left to its own devices, jasmine will spread for several metres, climbing over fences, pergolas, sheds and water tanks, and scrambling up trees and through hedges. Jasmine bursts into bloom suddenly in late winter or early spring, flowers madly for a few weeks, and then starts the important business of growing like crazy during summer. The stems can travel long distances across the ground, frequently rooting at leaf nodes to produce new plants. It can become a pest in bushland if it is allowed to escape from a garden, or if prunings are dumped.

In the UK and Ireland, jasmine is grown as an indoor plant, with the climbing shoots trained into topiary frames to keep the plant manageable. So don't dismiss it as a pot plant, if you're prepared to spend time training and pruning. Grab a pot now and keep it inside for a week or two to enjoy the delicious fragrance before planting it out in its permanent home.

If you want longer-lasting fragrance, or are concerned about the rampant nature of jasmine, consider the better-behaved, longer-flowering trachelospermum jasminoides (Chinese star jasmine). This lovely vine has glossy, bright green new growth which deepens to a lovely rich green. It will flower through spring and summer in a sunny to partly shaded position, and makes a good groundcover.

Another unmistakable spring fragrance is the citrus blossom. Citrus are usually planted because of their fabulous fruit, but I firmly believe they are worth growing for their fragrance alone. Although my trees are still laden with fruit, they are also smothered in sweetly scented blossom.

In the native garden, boronia megastigma (brown boronia) is perhaps the scent of spring. This lovely shrub has fine foliage and masses of tiny brown bell-shaped flowers which are rather small and insignificant but have an exquisite fragrance.

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