Nature’s balancing act

As I began preparing this column, Sandy, the monstrous storm, was looming upon us, threatening to hit any time, bringing along torrential rain, strong winds, and the worst feared outcome – power outage. So, on the morning of the predicted disaster, it suddenly occurred to me to check our greenhouse to make sure everything was secure, in the anticipation that stepping outside might not be easy the next few days.  Just as I opened the door of the greenhouse, I was overcome with delight and for a moment, almost forgot Sandy: the blooming Angel Wing Jasmine had filled the entire interior space with the most sweet fragrance. On a quick impulse, I picked a few branches, which had flowers, as well as unopened buds to bring inside the house. While the storm did spare us, the branches of the jasmine kept on our kitchen table are a reminder that, unlike many others on the path of Sandy, how fortunate we have been, and, how complex Nature’s balancing act can be.

Being naturally fond of jasmines, of all the ones I have or have grown in the past, Angel Wing Jasmine perhaps is the easiest to grow and procure, since plants are not winter hardy for our local weather conditions; we need to treat them like houseplants, although they do love to be kept outside during summer time. Evergreen plants develop scrambling, cascading branches fairly rapidly, therefore need a regular supply of water and fertilizer during growth period, but not as much during winter months. In fact, if the soil is either too wet or too dry, plants react by dropping the leaves. Clusters of long, pointed flower buds, each on a wiry purple stalk, are borne in abundance during bloom period opening into pinwheel-like, pure white flowers; needless to say, the fragrance is intoxicating.

Speaking of fragrance, one of the most noticeable attributes of jasmines, in particular the tropical jasmines, is the highly scented flowers; just a few emit enough perfume which a nose can sense from a distance even before the eyes can see the flowers. For this reason, during bloom time, I make it a point to harvest some flowers to keep inside.

In addition to the Angel Wing, there are quite a few other jasmines, which once were hard-to-find but can now be found almost year round at most garden centers. For example, there are several kinds of  Arabian jasmines, a must-have for fragrance lovers, which bear single petal or multiple-petal flowers, all with intense scent. Most have similar needs too; therefore it is easy to indulge in collecting as many as one comes across at various sources. And, most are easy to propagate by rooting; so sharing plants with other jasmine lovers is an added bonus for sure.         

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