Popping down to the coast for a few days last week, I found summer as well advanced as is ours on the ranges, with NSW Christmas bush (Ceratopetalum gumniferum) and lilly pilly Acmaena smithii in glorious bloom. Most striking of all, though, was the star jasmine (Trachelospermum, formerly Rhyncospermum, jasminoides). The shiny, pointed, evergreen leaves of every vine I saw were almost invisible, they were so densely covered in sweet smelling, starry white flowers. Star jasmine is a medium climber, growing slowly to seven metres high and wide and semi-clinging - it appreciates the help of a lattice-type support to get started. I saw several during our stay, one growing up a wall, another covering a fence to create a hedge, or 'fedge' as English gardeners call it, and another that had been trained into a proscenium-like arch around a garage door. Despite their glorious fragrance and jasmine-like flowers, Trachelospermums aren't true jasmines but belong to the Apocynaceae family, which includes frangipani, oleander and mandevilla. Many are poisonous to humans and animals - hence their common name of dogbane - with stems that exude a toxic, milky sap when cut, so please wear thick gloves when pruning. The first T. jasminoides was sent to England from China in 1844 by Scottish plant hunter Robert Fortune (1812-1880). Fortune is most famous for successfully introducing tea plants (Camellia sinensis) from China to India for the British East India Company but he also collected many beautiful ornamentals during plant hunting trips to China and Japan. He introduced more than 120 new species of hardy plants in addition to numerous varieties, including peonies, Japanese anemones, rhododendrons, camellias and roses. Despite considerable local hostility, he obtained most of his plants from gardens and nurseries, possibly because this made him confident the plants would be equally popular with western gardeners. T. jasminoides is hardy in most parts of NSW, though if you live high on the Tablelands, you might prefer the slightly hardier T. asiaticum. It's more compact (to six metres) with creamy flowers ageing yellow and more rounded, even glossier leaves than T. jasminoides. There are several variegated star jasmines, including the popular Tricolour with pink, coppery green and white leaves. It's only 40 to 50 centimetres high and makes an excellent ground cover. The evergreen, climbing star jasmines are fantastic for disguising, say, a fibro wall but less suitable for shade where you need winter sun.