Posts Tagged ‘Jasminum officinale’

Friday, October 28, 2011

Coming In From the Cold

Maidenhair Ferns_small Oranges and Pomegranates_small

Potted plants too tender to spend the winter in Bonnefont garden are trucked inside and brought up to Cuxa cloister, which is glazed in mid-October. Mediterranean plants such as bitter orange, myrtle, and bay laurel spend the cold season in the sunny arcades and are brought back out to the herb garden when the glass comes down in mid-April. Left: A wagonload of maidenhair fern in the arcade of Bonnefont garden. Right: oranges and pomegranates en route to Cuxa cloister.  Photographs by Carly Still

While the medieval plant collection at The Cloisters includes a good number of northern European species, a great many of the plants grown in the Bonnefont Cloister herb garden are Mediterranean in origin. Not all of these southern European plants are hardy for us here in New York City. The garden is a sheltered U.S.D.A. Hardiness Zone 7, and the fig tree (Ficus carica), poet’s jasmine (Jasminum officinale), and lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) do just fine outdoors, but more tender species like bitter orange (Citrus aurantium), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), bay laurel (Laurus nobilis), and dittany of Crete (Origanum dictamnus) must be brought inside and protected from the cold. Read more »

Friday, September 19, 2008

Jasmine Goes West

Angels offer a basket of jasmine and roses to the Virgin and Child.Jasmine and roses.

Left: Angels offer a basket of jasmine and roses to the Madonna and Child; right: detail of a basket of jasmine flowers and single-petaled white roses.

Jasmine’s significance as a symbolic flower blossoms in the art of the Italian Renaissance, where it appears as a symbol of divine love and heavenly happiness.  In combination with roses and lilies, which have a much longer iconographic history in Western art, it often appears in representations of the Madonna and Child.  Attendant angels offer jasmine to the infant Christ, or are wreathed with crowns of jasmine themselves. (Mirella D’Ancona Levi, The Garden of the Renaissance:  Botanical Symbolism in Italian Painting, 1977.)

Although it was grown in the Islamic gardens of southern Europe as early as the twelfth century, jasmine was not established in northern European gardens until the close of the Middle Ages.  Jasmine and roses scented the garden walks of the mid-fourteenth-century villa (believed to be the Villa Palmieri, two miles southeast of Florence) described by Bocaccio in the Decameron, but the earliest conclusive proof of jasmine’s presence in France is an illuminated border produced by Jean Bourdichon for the Great Hours of Anne of Brittany, c. 1501–1507. (John Harvey, Medieval Gardens, 1981.) Jasmine is intensively cultivated to this day at Grasse, which has been the center of the French fragrance industry since the Middle Ages. The English herbalist William Turner reported that jasmine grew abundantly in gardens around London by 1548. Read more »

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Yasimin, Jessamine

<em>Jasminum officinale</em> <em>Jasminum officinale</em> in the Trie Garden

The potted jasmines that perfume the gardens, and make a paradise of Trie Cloister, are in full flush and will flower for many weeks to come. The jasmines sold as house plants by nurseries and garden centers in the Northeast are often not the true or poet’s jasmine, Jasminum officinale, but a more frost-tender species, Jasminum polyanthum. Sometimes called winter jasmine, it is very heavily scented, but not so sweetly fragrant as the poet’s jasmine.

Jasminum officinale has been at home in a sheltered, sunny position in the bed under the parapet wall in Bonnefont Garden and has wintered over there for some years. The plants grown in terra rossa pots are the same species, but are a distinct form, J. officinale forma affine.

The color of the buds on these beautiful plants is a deep pink, although the flowers, slightly larger than the species, open pure white.  The fragrance is delightful even during the day. (Jasmines are most fragrant in the evening. ) Long prized for its scent, jasmine is still grown in great quantities at Grasse, which was already a center for perfumery in the Middle Ages.

Native to the Himalayas of western China and introduced into European gardens from the East, jasmine was a relative latecomer to those regions not in close contact with the Arab world.  Read more »