Garden Q&A: What is this winter bloom? And should I graft tomato plants?
By Ellen Nibali
Feb 13, 2020 | 7:00 AM
Please identify this flowering plant. It cascades very prettily over a retaining wall I pass every day, and I’m amazed to see it blooming in winter.
Winter jasmine not only flowers very early, but its young stems stay green all winter, even though it is a deciduous, providing good winter interest. Branches arch up to about 3-4 feet. This shrub is effective on slopes or above walls and also under leggy shrubs. It handles sun to part shade. More sun means more flowers.
Jasminum nudiflorum has no fragrance but flowers over a long period — January to March. Where trailing branches touch the ground, they layer, i.e. root and begin new plants, creating a ground cover. The small ½ to 1 ¼” dark green leaves are trifoliate (groups of three) and pest free. Deer avoid it.
Though not native, winter jasmine tolerates poor soil and some drought, and can be a useful addition.
I start my heirloom tomatoes from seed indoors and transplant into progressively deeper pots so that, by the time I plant them outside, they have a very good root system. I read about grafting tomato plants onto good rootstock tomatos for better production. However, when planting outside, the grafted tomato would actually have a smaller root system than mine. Is it worth the trouble? Rootstock seeds run about $22 for 25 seeds.
For most gardeners, tomato grafting is difficult and the success rate is low. Special set-ups (growing chambers) are necessary. As long as the home gardener has good soil — and no serious chronic soil disease, such as fusarium — then it’s a great deal of effort and cost for similar outcomes.
If you’re curious, we recommend first purchasing some plants and experimenting with them. Try the Maryland Grows Blog on our Home and Garden Information Center website, which features tomatoes among many topics. Tomatoes are such a hot item, they merit several tags.
University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information at extension.umd.edu/hgic. Click “Ask Maryland’s Gardening Experts” to send questions and photos.