Gingering up the Border

Do you ‘do’ orange in the garden? It can be a difficult colour to place, especially if you like the pastel shades – white, pink or pale blue. But with so much yellow flying around just now (heleniums, rudbeckias and sunflowers for example), a shot of orange can work well. Or mix it with cool blues and purples for a vibrant contrast.

Travel to southeast Asia, and in lightly wooded countryside, you are likely to find gingers growing. Growing four to six feet tall, they carry white, yellow or orange flowers. Some of them have naturalised in other warmer parts of the wild, but a few are hardy enough to grow here in the UK. Hedychiums, to give them the scientific name, grow from rhizomes which can be left in the ground, unprotected in milder parts, and under a mulch in colder areas. The variety ‘Tara’ is reckoned to be the hardiest, although if the colour is too bright for you, ‘Stephen’ comes a good second.

Hedychium 'Tara' - 2014

Good winter drainage is essential; more hedychiums are killed by rotting than by cold. But they also need sufficient moisture in the growing season; growing them in a pot or a raised bed may be the answer if your soil is cold and heavy. ‘Tara’ typically grows five to six feet tall with me, so a position at the back of a sunny border, where the rhizomes are shaded, suits it best. These spread slowly but are easily chopped away in early spring if getting out of bounds. I gave one to a friend in March, and hers is just coming into flower now; my established clump has been blooming for a week or so.

Hedychium 'Tara' - 2016

So give gingers a go – they may be the start of a new love affair with the colour orange.


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