GROW FOOD slow food Have your garden and eat it too. A practical guide to organic gardening in the sub-tropics with step-by-step instructions and delicious seasonal recipes. Come with me too on some of my travels in Australia, Europe, Asia and beyond.

COMMON NAME: Arabian Jasmine, melati putih (Indonesia), sampaguita (Philippines), pinyin (China), pichcha (Sri Lanka)

BOTANICAL NAME: Jasminum sambac ‘Grand Duke of Tuscany’

GENUS: Jasmine

FAMILY: Oleaceae (the olive family)

This unprepossessing plant, with the most gorgeous flowers and fragrance ever, comes from all places warm, east and tropical – certainly not Arabia (common name misnomer again) – and don’t ask me where the ‘Grand Duke of Tuscany’ comes into it – a more delicate and feminine plant I have never come across (on second thoughts, I suppose I should give him the benefit of the doubt?). Everyone should have this gem of a jasmine plant!

I first came across this fabulously exotic flower in bathrooms in Indonesia where they are commonly scattered around to sweetly scent the air, and I don’t know how I came upon the original specimen I planted in my garden, but I’m very glad to have it. It sits there for half the year, hiding in a corner, and then bingo – that fragrance starts to waft in the evening stillness.


Jasminum sambac is a small evergreen shrub growing up to about 2 m in height with a fan shaped, cane-like growth habit. it’s one of about 200 species in the JASMINE family.

The small leaves are smooth, shiny (glabrous), roundish and opposite along the stem.

It flowers all through the warmer months producing small clusters (1-6) of fragrant, rose-like, white flowers that become tinged with pink as the flower ages.

The dried petals of this plant are used to make jasmine tea. This surprises just about everyone and I often take it for a show-and-tell because folk know they have smelled it before, but they just can’t think where? Lots of head scratching goes on then there is always a bit of a eureka moment. It’s good to have fun and interesting plants like this in the garden.

As far as I can see it is pest free – always a bonus – and the best way to look after it is to prune it back hard in the autumn then feed it and give it a good covering of mulch. Easy plants are my best friends.

It is easy to propagate from cuttings – I usually do this from the top part of the pruned stems once it has finished flowering.


  • For its flowers. To make jasmine tea you simply dry the petals and add them to some good black tea leaves.
  • Jasmine oil has been used for centuries as a perfume – and still is widely cultivated for this purpose today. This is probably where the Arabia comes in in its common name because it has been highly prized in the Middle East for centuries.
  • As a specimen shrub in a mixed border – just keep it where you can see it and not smothered by other, more abundant, shrubbery
  • It’s fan-like growth lends this plant to being espaliered against a fence or a wall – which would really show it off – I just wish I had more space?.
  • You could grow it in a pot, but it would need regular pruning to keep a more compact shape.
  • As a cut flower – the fragrance in the house right now is heavenly.
  • It holds a revered position in the religions of the East and is commonly used in ceremonies and for garlands and offerings.

A LITTLE STORY: Lady Gaga and Jasminum sambac. Apparently this pop idol was walking the streets of Manilla, in the Philippines, and was handed some flowers of this jasmine from some street children – called Sampaguita in that neck of the woods. She was so taken with its heady fragrance that she was inspired to create her own perfume called Fame based on its heavenly scent. You read it first here!

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Lemon Grass – click on this link for everything you need to know about this useful plant.

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