This has been an especially brutal winter for folks in many parts of the country — including the northeast, the midwest, and even the southeast, where gardeners are used to having flowers all winter. It’s one of those years when the earliest blooming plants will be especially welcome. Winter jasmine is one of those. It can bloom so early in the year during a warm spell that I’ve heard older Southern gardeners call it “January jasmine.”
The yellow blooms of winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) are often misidentified. Those who aren’t familiar with it often mistakenly believe it to be a confused forsythia bush, blooming out of sync with the natural order of things.
I actually much prefer this shrub to forsythia, which is so ubiquitous around here that those brassy blooms start to seem tawdry after a while. By the time the forsythia blooms in late March, there’s already so much yellow in the world that it’s easy to take it all for granted. Not so with winter jasmine, which offers up its little six-petaled stars to a mostly colorless landscape.
Although it’s in the jasmine family, this shrub bears flowers without scent. It’s quite a bit less cold-tolerant than forsythia, said to be hardy only as far north as Zone 6, although I’ve heard many reports of gardeners growing it successfully in Zone 5.