The overwhelming majority of climbing plants tend to be rampant and aggressive in their growth habit. They need to be so in the forests where they grow naturally, in order to scramble up towards the light of the forest canopy. This attribute is often welcome in many garden situations, but tends to become problematical in small spaces. The temptation to plant the likes of Bougainvillea, Thunbergia, or Campsis, with their rapid cover and spectacular blooms, can be very great, but many a small plot has been taken over or become an unmanageable tangle as a result.
In contrast stands Star Jasmine, (Trachelospermum jasminoides) which is fairly slow growing and not as showy as many of the usual climbers. Often considered a drawback by the unaware, its lethargy in getting started makes it easy to keep under control, and so it is far more suitable for the small private garden or backyard.
In its own way, Star Jasmine is actually a very beautiful ornamental. Reaching about 2-3 meters (9 ft) it has small, dark green, shiny leaves, which add a refined, woodsy feel to the garden. The plant is smothered by delicate, but very fragrant white flowers in the spring and early summer. It looks good at close quarters, maintaining a decent appearance all the year round. Star Jasmine is therefore suitable for small, intimate spaces such as entrances and narrow paths.
An ornamental plant, like an ingredient in a recipe, is only as good as its place in the general scheme of things. In design terms, a specimen has to relate appropriately with the other plants. In this regard, Trachelospermum climbing up a wall combines excellently with low growing shrubs of medium texture, like Pittosporum “Wheelers dwarf”, Coprosma repens and Green Island Ficus. It also goes well with bushes like Carissa, Viburnum, Duranta, and Raphiolepis.
For those who like the natural feel of a plant scrambling up a tree, Star Jasmine is an infinitely wiser choice than rampant climbers such as Ivy. The latter, though not a parasite in biological terms, can virtually strangle a tree, causing branches to collapse under its weight, and seriously shortening the tree’s life. Trachelospermum simply does not possess such belligerent qualities!
For climbing on tall walls, Star Jasmine needs tying and training. With age, the vines do become thicker, and so the structure on which it is trained, ought to be able to take some weight. On short walls though, it does not require support, as it cascades over the top of the wall. It is also used sometimes as a medium scale ground cover. Left to its own devises, it tends to mound somewhat, and in time can become bare and bald, other than at the growing tips. It is therefore worth pruning and clipping on a regular basis in order to induce lateral growth and ultimately, a denser, more compact appearance.