Fragrant jasmine is one of the best climbing plants for scent in the garden (2024)

With an evocative scent that takes you back to summer nights overseas, jasmine is a climber many of us aspire to grow, but if you want to recreate that holiday fragrance, it pays to choose the right one.

The best jasmine for perfume

Common jasmine – Jasminum officinale – is covered with starry white flowers that open from tightly scrolled pink buds and release a powerful fragrance – sweet and floral but slightly musky. Like many plants that are pollinated by moths, its flowers are at their heady, fragrant best in the evening, after the sun sets.

It likes well-drained soil and a sunny, sheltered position where it will reach between 4-8m tall and around 2m or slightly more across. It’ll flower during summer and into autumn. Because it’s deciduous, when the temperature starts to drop in winter, it will lose its leaves, bursting into fresh growth in spring each year. Use it to cover an expanse of fence or wall – you’ll need to attach a trellis or some wires that its stems can be tied onto, because unlike many other climbers, it won’t self-cling. Alternatively, grow it up an arch or over an arbour to create a deliciously scented enclosure.

You might come across Jasminum officinale ‘Devon Cream’ in the garden centre, too (the same variety is sometimes sold as ‘Clotted Cream’). As the name suggests, this cultivar’s flowers are the exact shade of the decadent cream, and just as scented, should you want to ring the changes from pure white.

J. officinale ‘Fiona Sunrise’ has vivid golden-yellow leaves, which may or may not be to your taste! ‘Inverleith’ is worth seeking out –it has won the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit, which means it’s an excellent, garden-worthy plant. When the new leaves emerge in spring, they’re bronzy, deepening to dark green, and the flowers are strongly fragrant. Also keep an eye out for the variegated ‘Argenteovariegatum’ – its green leaves are splashed with creamy variegation that gives the whole plant a silvery look.

Jasminum officinale is hardy in most of the UK, tolerating winter temperatures down to -10°C to -15°C, however other jasmines aren’t, so if you’re intending to grow jasmine outside in the garden, don’t choose one of the tender species, such as Jasminum polyanthum. This is the jasmine you’ll often find sold trained on a hoop in the houseplant section of the garden centre – it’s fine as a fragrant indoor plant or in a conservatory but it won’t tolerate temperatures below freezing.

Star jasmine isn’t a true jasmine, rather it’s Trachelospermum jasminoides. Slightly less hardy (it’ll only survive temperatures as low as -5°C to -10°C), it’s also powerfully fragrant, with similar white flowers to jasmine – the petals are more slender, giving each flower a starrier appearance. You’ll often see it winding its way through the fences of front gardens in London, where the warmth of the city means there’s less chance of prolonged cold temperatures in winter making it a safe choice.

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Unlike deciduous jasmine, Trachelospermum jasminoides is evergreen, so it retains its leaves over winter - they’ll often develop tints of red and maroon when the temperature drops. Like jasmine, it also needs well-drained soil, a sunny spot and shelter. It does well in city gardens or on a south- or west-facing wall that will retain the heat of the sun and keep the plant warm. This climber can reach between 8-12m tall and 4-8m wide, and will need tying in to trellis or wires if you want to train it along a house wall or a fence.

Both trachelospermum and jasmine are vigorous climbers and once they get their roots down, will grow quite quickly. They might need some pruning to keep them in check, if you don’t have enough space to let them have their heads. The good news is that their lovely long tendrils make a pretty – and surprisingly long-lasting – addition to a vase of flowers.

Other jasmines you might encounter

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Jasminum nudiflorum is a winter-flowering jasmine with clear yellow flowers that spangle its green stems with colour. It’s more of a shrub than a climber, with long arching branches that you’ll often see hanging down from the top of a wall or bank. They could also be trained against a wall if kept tied in to a trellis or framework. Unfortunately, the flowers aren’t at all scented, but for winter interest alone it’s a valuable addition.

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Jasminum beesianum has teeny-tiny flowers in reddish-pink, mostly hidden among a lot of tangled, stemmy growth. Internet descriptions will tell you it’s “sweetly scented” or even “intoxicating” but in reality its perfume is so faint it can be hard to discern and it doesn’t begin to compare to the fragrance of Jasminum officinale or trachelospermum, which are far better choices for your precious garden space.

Fragrant jasmine is one of the best climbing plants for scent in the garden (2024)
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