My collection started back in the late nineties when I was introduced to Ornamental Gingers by a local grower. Little did I know then that this small rhizome was going to lead to this plant collection. Each year it grew a little more until I could not move in the back garden and so I had to find a local glasshouse to expand into!
The Hedychium sp. (heh-DIK-ee-um) ornamental butterfly gingers are one of the most spectacular plants of the Zingiberaceae family, which includes plants like Curcuma, Alpinia and the culinary Zingiber.These rhizomatous plants grow in various heights from about 30cm through to about 2 metres tall, looking like a maize plant in appearance.They have many stems with a flower that comes out centrally from each stem, producing a Roman candle type inflorescence. The flowers vary in colour, size and density producing a range of displays with the varying heights.
The gingers are from the tropical and semi tropical areas of the world, where many are classed as weeds but can grow at high alitudes. So, many of the plants require quite a persistent long day length, along with high average temperatures to be able to flower. The Victorians grew them quite readily in their heated conservatories as they provided a spectacular display. When temperatures are kept constant many can be evergreen. So when the hot house became a thing of the past so did the gingers.
However they are starting a come back as many are a lot more root hardier that first thought. Also with warmer winters and many more new varieties, they are able to survive not only lower storage temperatures but outside in the garden as well. Many people are trying them over winter in the garden, including myself with some success. The art is picking the right varieties to be able to do this. The Hedychium coronarium is a popular variety grown across the world as it has a brilliant white scented flower and one of the strongest flower scents. However it is one of the most difficult to get into flower without a lot of heat and light. Many buy this one as it readily available but are disappointed when it doesn’t flower. It will survive outside over winter in the gardens on the South coast but will not readily flower outside, if at all.