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A charming native vine welcomes spring

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Photo courtesy of Penelope O'Sullivan

(Read caption) Carolina jessamine's bright yellow yellows signal the end of winter.

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With New Orleans so much in the news recently, it seems fitting that I dedicate today’s blog post to this revitalized city where my children live, and where I, a chilly New Englander, like visiting in winter.

Last February I flipped for a flowering Carolina jessamine, Gelsemium sempervirens, draped over a wrought-iron and brick wall at the historic Beauregard-Keyes House in the French Quarter.

The house has a formal walled garden, which replicates the original 1865 plan. Kudos to the Garden Study Club of New Orleans, a member of the Garden Club of America, for replanting and maintaining it.

Carolina jessamine is a twining woody evergreen (or, in colder areas, semi-evergreen) vine native to the southeastern United States (Zones 7 to 10), where it blooms on old wood in winter or spring. I saw it growing in full sun, where flowering is best, but it also tolerates some shade.

In addition to cloaking walls, it can cover arbors, climb trees, or scramble along the ground, depending upon how you train it. In conditions it likes, it grows briskly, up to 15 feet a year.

I like the slight winter purpling of some of the dark evergreen leaves; it makes the bright yellow flowers pop even more. Best of all, the fragrant 1.5-inch trumpets attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

Maintenance is a breeze. Train to tree or trellis by fastening canes loosely with stretchy vinyl landscape tape. For maximum bloom, wait until flowers fade to snip off wayward shoots.

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