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Mississippi Gardens Newsletter ArchivesCarolina Jessamine noticed this time of year
Mississippi Gardens Newspaper and Web Column - March 15, 2004

Carolina JessamineThe sudden splash of brilliant yellow in Mississippi landscapes and woodland areas is exceptionally noticeable this year. Any traveler has noticed that redbud trees and ornamental pear are sharing the early spring spotlight with another outstanding flowering plant. The source of this welcome burst of color is Carolina Jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens), a twining vine and not a tree or shrub although the yellow blooms may appear at heights above 20 feet. This fantastic flowering vine has been the state flower of South Carolina since 1924 and it's a welcome addition to any southern landscape.

Carolina Jessamine (pronounced jazz-min by many) is an evergreen vine with small, shiny, dark green, waxy leaves and delicate appearance. The wiry vine blooms from late February to early April depending on its north-south location in the state. The bright yellow flowers are about an inch long, funnel-shaped, fragrant and very attractive.

Carolina Jessamine bushSome people call Carolina Jessamine yellow honeysuckle, but we could almost rename it the mailbox plant. Gardeners and landscapers have found that the mailbox is an ideal location for this plant. Because it is an evergreen vine it's great for concealing the mundane appearance of the mailbox year round, and then in early spring we can enjoy the beautiful yellow flowers each time we leave or return home.

Carolina Jessamine is most often planted where it can cover a fence or trellis, serving as a screen and/or landscape focal point. The vine will grow in shade or sun but maximum floral production will occur when grown with plenty of sunlight. It works great on chain link fences. However, it can also be allowed to climb on trees, shrubs and other landscape structures.

Carolina Jessamine on a mailboxWhen growing Carolina Jessamine on a fence or trellis it's best to train it horizontally first, otherwise it will grow up, form a mass of greenery and shade out the lower leaves. It can also be used as a ground cover, but its desire to grow upward will send it up any vertical path it can find. An annual shearing after flowering will keep the vine vigorous and attractive. Choose a site that is well drained.

When selecting a companion for Carolina Jessamine, consider situating it where it may flower along with redbud trees. There are also a few cultivars to select from that include 'Margarita', with flowers slightly larger than typical, 'Woodlanders Light Yellow' with creamy yellow flowers, best in zone 8 or warmer. 'Pride of Augusta' a double-flowering form is also available. Now is a great time to add one or more of these vines to your Mississippi landscape. Happy gardening!

Publications may download photographs at 200 dpi: Flowers | Bush | Mailbox

These archived columns were written by Kerry Johnson<, a hobby gardener, former weekly newspaper columnist and retired Extension Horticulture Agent for 11 coastal counties in Mississippi.