Popcorn jasmine and other Perennial Spring Bloomers

popcorn or primrose jasmine (Jasminum mesnyi)

popcorn or primrose jasmine (Jasminum mesnyi)

One of the joys of plant watching is the reappearance of old flowering friends as winter turns to spring. A number of late winter plants that are hard to miss include the following.
Popcorn Jasmine. Just now, arching stems of popcorn/primrose jasmine are coming into full bloom. Eventually, sheets of puffy yellow and white flowers, slightly fragrant, will be revealed and drape themselves, tapestry-like, over block walls. In any garden spot, popcorn jasmine in bloom resembles the eruption of blossoming jets from a unique botanical fountain.
Popcorn jasmine (Jasminum mesnyi) is named for flowers that turn from buttery yellow to white. Upon close examination, these flowers have an irregular and somewhat bloated appearance. Blooming popcorn jasmine is a phenological marker, signaling winter’s last gasp and the rapid approach of spring.
Marguerite Daisy. Marguerite daisies (Argyranthemum frutescens) are also currently in bloom. You can find them in white, sulfur yellow, blushing pink and ruby red. These perennials will provide color on and off throughout the year as long as they are moderately pruned after each flush of flowers. They look good for two to three years, but after this period of time lose most of their flowering capacity. ‘Ruby Slippers’ is a highly gratifying variety due to its especially long bloom period and flowers that change color from burgundy to scarlet to rose.
Kaffir Lily. Once you see a kaffir lily (Clivia miniata), you will not forget it.
Sets of broad, deep-green foliar straps emerge and then cascade in opposite directions from the center of the plant, where clusters of orange, tubular flowers also develop. This plant is a favorite selection for sun-deprived breezeways and is found growing under the San Diego Freeway in Brentwood, between Sepulveda Boulevard and the entry to the Getty Center. The only problem with Clivia is its powerful attraction for snails. You will need to broadcast snail bait or hand pick the critters. If you go for bait, keep in mind that it breaks down in water so you will have to replenish it every week or so. Sluggo is a product preferred by pet owners since it is non-toxic to pets even while it diminishes your snail population.
If you do not mind physically removing or hand picking your community of snails and you do so consistently each morning before 8o’clock, you can rid yourself of them in the course of about three weeks without having to resort to chemical abatement.
Cineraria. Annual cineraria is gorgeous but short-lived. Here again, snails are a major concern. Enjoy the tight bouquets of cineraria blooms, in blue, red, pink or salmon, while you can because they will probably disappear from your garden, one way or another, within a few weeks.
Nasturtium. If you are teaching children about planting seeds, there is no better example to start with than nasturtium.
Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) seeds are large, easy to plant and enthusiastic about germinating in the Valley throughout fall, winter, and spring. Depending on your growing space, nasturtium will either trail along the ground or billow out of a flower box or other container. Flared, squat trumpet flowers will appear in winter or spring. Both flowers and foliage are edible. They have a peppery taste similar to that of watercress, to which nasturtium is closely related.
Nasturtium flowers are orange, yellow or burgundy. Leaves are round, pea green in color and resemble small lily pads. Nasturtium self-sows and will spread through the garden without a lot of effort on your part. Although generally planted as a billowy ground cover, they do have the ability to climb. Placed next to a chain link fence, they will climb up to six feet and create a soft curtain of lily pads.
In response to a recent column where I registered doubts about growing jacarandas and coral trees in the west Valley, I received the following e-mail from Carolyn Arthur:
“I live in Woodland Hills and must tell you that there are long-established jacarandas in my neighborhood. Here in Walnut Acres (south of Victory, west of Fallbrook) there is one at least 50 years old next door, and another 150 feet to the east. On the other hand, you are right regarding coral trees, as one at the corner of Erwin and Royer has frozen twice this season.
“Subsequent regrowth has made the tree even more vulnerable to splitting, as it did two years ago.”
Q. Would Epsom Salt be helpful or harmful to azaleas and camellias?
– Nick Kurek,
Granada Hills
A. At a rate of 1 tablespoon per gallon of water, apply Epsom Salt to the ground around your camellias and azaleas every two to four weeks. Epsom Salt consists of magnesium and sulfur, the latter benefiting acid-loving azaleas and camellias since it works to acidify Valley soil, which tends to be on the alkaline side.

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