Connect with us

Thai Life

Phuket Gardening: A holy trinity of jasmines



PHUKET: What do the following tropical plants have in common? Jasminum, buddleia paniculata, gardenia, murraya, plumeria, wrightia, fiddlewood, alstonia, michelia alba, cestrum nocturnum. Well, actually they have two points of similarity. One, they are all white flowering shrubs or trees; two, they are all sweet-smelling.

I have placed the jasmine first in the above list because, along with the lotus, it is the most revered flower in Southeast Asia. The national flower of both the Philippines and Indonesia, in Thailand jasmine is an essential accompaniment to most religious ceremonies, festivals and celebrations.

A symbol of motherhood, its price rockets skywards on Mother’s Day, when a kilo of flower buds will fetch 1000 baht instead of the usual 200. Perhaps it is significant that these jasmine buds form the topmost section of our floral garland. For this purpose, they have to be picked at night or in the early morning before they open and start to lose their heady aroma.

The genus is large, with some 200 species, and surprisingly, true jasmines are a member of the olive or oleaceae brigade. However, there are not only many sub-species, but an increasing number of cultivars. To complicate things still further, jasmines have been re-classified botanically, and some, previously allotted to the jasminum family, have been sent elsewhere.

But make no mistake, the one we are talking about, jasminum sambac or Arabian jasmine, is the real deal. Ask any Thai what dok mali is, and they will know – instantly. It features in most Thai gardens and hails not from Arabia but from right here.

The shrub’s appearance is not that spectacular, with smallish white blooms and oval evergreen foliage. It grows six or eight feet tall, and will tolerate a range of conditions including semi-shade, though it is averse to drought. It is propagated from seed or better, from cuttings. Currently, I am trying a couple out as house-plants, but I expect to give them the occasional outdoor reprieve.

Most hybrids, like the species, bear single blooms at the branch tips and leaf axils. “Maid of Orleans” has widely flared flowers, “Belle of India” significantly longer petals. “Grand Duke of Tuscany” has double flowers which give a rose or gardenia-like appearance. There is, however, some loss of scent.

Jasminum sambac will not only fill your evening garden with delicious aromas, it will pervade your house. The essential oil from the flowers, made from soaking the buds on cotton sheets with olive oil, provides one of the classic fragrances in soaps and perfumes. And the flowers, blended with green tea leaves, give us jasmine tea.

What a star!

Jasminum officinale is not quite in the same league. But in fairness, its popular name of common jasmine is, I suspect, a reference to the fact that it is cultivated worldwide.

It was one of two jasmine varieties I was able to grow in London (the other was yellow winter jasmine or nudiflorum). It is a sprawling and somewhat twining deciduous shrub which can attain a considerable size. The flowers are often pink-tinged and the leaves are pinnate, consisting of a number of slender leaflets.

But the jasmine smell is unmistakably present, and in temperate climes can provide an exotic aroma during the summer months.

Last but not least in this trinity of jasmines is the jasminum rex. Royally named, the paan yii is also a climber with large ovate leaves, and two or three slender, star-shaped flowers with a deep center at the end of each vine.

Pure white, of course, it has the largest flowers of any jasmine – usually eight petals. Given moist conditions, it will bloom prolifically.

Sadly, the flowers possess little or no scent. Pulchritude or perfume? Up to you…

Tip of the week – Fortification through thornication
Armored shrubs are totally unsuitable for play areas, but they are great as deterrents.

Hawthorn hedges are still used in Britain to stop livestock invading adjacent fields of crops. The London police even issued a list of thorny plants to help protect homes from would-be burglars.

In Phuket, the home guard list is longer – no hawthorn, pyracantha (left), thunbergia, blackberry or brambles, but many others. The crown of thorns (euphorbia milii) won’t make a decent hedge, but rows of pots will form an effective barrier.

The bougainvillea (right) can be used in the same way, but is such a vigorous and dense shrub that it will rapidly form a hedge capable of being clipped. And the vicious spines, unlike the euphorbia’s, are mostly hidden beneath the foliage.

Azima tetracantha (needle bush) is very thorny, as is the Chinese jujube (zizyphus sativa). Both pigeon berry and kaffir limes sometimes have spiny stems.

If you have a question or a garden that you would like featured, you can email the author here.

Keep checking our online Phuket Lifestyle pages or join our Facebook fan page for regular gardening features and tips.

— Patrick Campbell


Get more from The Thaiger

Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Thailand7 hours ago

Thailand News Today | Thais more relaxed about Covid-19

Bangkok7 hours ago

‘Win’ motorbike taxi drivers protest against GrabBike in Bangkok, Thailand

World7 hours ago

China not cod-ing about its zero Covid policy as it tests fish

Travel7 hours ago

Affordable but stylish hotels in Koh Samui for your next holiday

Thailand7 hours ago

Female soldier seeks help after being abused by senator’s wife

Crime8 hours ago

2 fake monks make up to 40k baht per day scamming villagers in northern Thailand

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Crime9 hours ago

Man stabs wife’s secret lover to death in rice paddy in central Thailand

Thailand9 hours ago

Thailand movie legend Sombat Metanee has died, aged 85

Crime10 hours ago

Teen soldier murders cousin for allegedly raping his mother

Video10 hours ago

Thaiger Unfiltered

World11 hours ago

Monkeypox victims told to avoid animals after pet dog is infected

Thailand11 hours ago

Elephant rips mahout’s body in half in southern Thailand

Thailand12 hours ago

2 men on a motorcycle rob a gas station in Chon Buri

Thailand12 hours ago

PM Prayut suggests studying Buddhism to cope with rising electricity bills in Thailand

Thailand13 hours ago

Indian man arrested for smuggling 17 live animals out of Thailand

Thailand11 months ago

Morning Top Stories Thailand | Police to end protests, Human Trafficking | September 14

Thailand1 year ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism1 year ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket1 year ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism1 year ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand1 year ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism1 year ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11