Ginger up your garden

When we talk about flowering gingers we lump together a range of different species. Hedychiums, or ginger lilies, are perhaps the showiest, since they hold large panicles of flowers above the foliage. They come in white, yellow and pink to salmon, but hybridists are working to expand the range. The ginger lilies are usually sweetly scented.

Some of the Costus (crepe ginger) species are interesting, rather than showy. Those that flower at the base of the foliage should be planted on a bank or the top of a retaining wall so that the flowers are at eye level. There are also many Costus species that flower near the top of the foliage, which is often very attractive.

Turmeric, the spice, comes from the Curcuma genus, which also includes flowering species. This is another group that flowers near the ground, though the flowers sometimes precede the emergence of the foliage so they aren’t hidden. The coloured species are usually in pink shades.

There are also flowering and foliage varieties of true ginger (Zingiber species). Alpinia is another big genus of flowering gingers. Take care when buying these that you know how big the clump will grow – they can be useful as screens, but can also be too big for a small garden. The flowers are not very attractive to my eye, but there are plenty of variegated foliage types on the market, and they more than make up for the flowers.

The native blue ginger is Alpinia caerulia, very tough, not too big, and bearing showy blue berries. The other ‘blue ginger’ is not a ginger at all. Dichoryisandra thyrsifolia is in the same family as the weed Wandering Jew, the Commelinaceae.

This article has barely scratched the surface, so I’ll carry on next week with more.


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