Signs of summer
It’s the transition to summer. I know this not so much by the temperature as the landscape around me. I know it by the soft swatches of lavender in the wetland areas on Sullivan’s Island where thousands of tiny daisy petals make colorful carpets alongside walkways to the beach. I know it by the lemony Magnolia blossoms opening wide. I see it in the delicate purple wildflowers that are springing up all over the grounds at Charlestowne Landing.
These signal the transition of spring to summer to me as much as the closing of the school year and the panicked look I see in parents eyes as we scramble to figure out what to do with our children’s pending freedom. They are a reminder to me to do what summer insists upon – to slow down and linger a bit with the lengthening days. To lather on Coppertone sunscreen, the scent whisking me to past days on an assortment of sundry beaches, ocean waves carrying away any cares. It’s time to slough off winter’s dead skin and kick off my shoes and go barefoot.
Step out of our front door this week, take a deep breath, and you can smell it. My daughter, Savannah, home from Austin, TX for a short visit, stops beside the vine as she walks in the door, dragging her suitcase. “Now, this smells like home” she says. Confederate Jasmine. It smells like home. It smells like Charleston.
I planted this vine years ago around the column beside our front door. Every year, I have to cut it back again and again. It’s glossy dark green leaves and vines grow vigorously all year. The star shaped fragrant flowers show up in late spring. It also grows on a fence in the back yard - so this time of year my whole yard smells like jasmine.
I always thought the name came from the fact that it grows in the American south.... in the old “confederate states” of the US. But I was completely wrong. The name Confederate Jasmine comes from the Malay Confederacy of Southeast Asia where the vine is native. It’s also called star jasmine or trader’s compass. The trader’s compass name comes from an old saying that the flowers would point traders in the right direction... if they were of good character. It’s a beautiful plant with so many stories and such a lovely fragrance. But I agree with my daughter. Confederate Jasmine will always smell like Charleston to me.