A Garden Mini-Tragedy

Among the first plants I put in our new garden in the spring of 2006 were native climbing vines Carolina jessamin (Gelsemium sempervirens). In no time the two vines were up and covering an arbor as one of the main focal points of the new garden. This photo, taken in 2010, will demonstrate what a lovely role Carolina jessamin can play in the early spring garden.


Over the years it has required frequent and sometimes heavy pruning to keep it in form…and allow me to walk under it. It has, however, never failed to grow and bloom vigorously.

As winter was drawing to a close and we were experiencing unusually warm weather, I noticed my neighbor’s jessamin greening up. I saw it beginning to open its yellow blossoms all over town and wild in the woods.


Why not mine?

A quick look told a sad story. The bark on all the branches had completely pulled away, leaving lifeless, bare stems…from both vines.

I consulted several experts, and they offered the explanation that the early warm weather followed by a snap deep cold was the culprit. But…why wasn’t my neighbor’s jessamin affected in the same way? His is covered with green and yellow, and its only 50-60 feet away.

Perhaps it has something to do with my vines being directly in morning sun and experiencing an abrupt temperature change from warm to freezing or the reverse. I have cut them both back to the base to what appears to be green wood in hopes that they will return. I try to talk to them every day.

Has anyone else experienced such as this? I would welcome thoughts and opinions.


About johnvic8

John Viccellio retired after 24 years in the U. S. Navy and began to dig into gardening when he could finally land in one place. He completed the Master Gardener course in 1992 and has since designed and constructed two of his own gardens. He wrote a monthly garden column for ten years and was a regular contributor to Carolina Gardener magazine. John published his first book, Guess What's in My Garden!, in 2014. He lives in a retirement community in Matthews, NC.
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17 Responses to A Garden Mini-Tragedy

  1. Lindy Le Coq says:

    It’s always so sad to experience this kind of loss!


  2. Sad, for sure! Hope they will revive. Just wondering if some non-plant characters have been enjoying the vine. Recently, in our mild Ontario winter, I have seen squirrels and crows, stripping huge lengths of bark from a linden tree. Not sure if they use them for nests but they have come back several times. They only pick a few skinny branches but these are shining white amidst the dark leafless bigger branches. Strange, it seems. 🙂


    • johnvic8 says:

      I don’t think it was a critter. They wouldn’t have loosened all the bark from all the stems. And the bark was still there…just shriveled away from the stems.


  3. anne leueen says:

    I had something similar happen with a west facing Japanese maple. The bark came off just as it has done in your photos. I was told that were we are ( just north of Toronto) it was too cold for the maple. Also we have a lot of wind where we are. I’m not sure what was the real cause. Sadly although I did cut it back it did not revive. I hope your jessamin will do better.


  4. Peach6972 says:

    Beautiful 😘❤


  5. junkytravel says:

    It must have been a painful experience. Growing up plants is like nurturing small children. My sister organizes a whole funeral when one of her plants dies.
    Regarding your problem, I consulted a gardener and he also seems to think that the bark pulled away due to sudden changes in temperature.


  6. bittster says:

    Glad to hear the base still seems ok. If it resprouts and recovers I would agree it was a weather issue with the top, and guess that you got a less hardy one compared to your neighbor’s and the wild ones. I don’t think it will take long before it’s beautiful again, plus pruning must have been pretty straight forward this year!


  7. Mary says:

    Sorry for your loss. I have found the wind is so hard on a noise the rose I have that I wrap it in burlap every year.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Mary says:

    It is a noisette rose.


  9. Christina says:

    How sad; my fingers are crossed for you that it will regrow.


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