Bringing a touch of the tropics to our garden this summer are two members of the ginger family – Hedychium densiflorum “Stephen” and Cautleya spicata. The Cautleya has been crammed into a 14″ pot for three or four years. I meant to re-pot it into a much larger container this spring, but by the time I got round to it the fragile shoots were already 3″ long and looked a bit too easy to snap. Despite its confines this is the best it’s ever looked. Provided it’s fed (I use tomato food), watered regularly and protected from snails (not easy!) it looks wonderful through the summer. The text books recommend that Cautleya should be planted in rich, moist but free-draining soil in part shade or sun in a sheltered position. It is not fully hardy in cold areas, but we move the pot into an unheated cellar over winter and keep it dry, which seems to work. Cautleya hails from the Himalaya. In its natural habitat it is usually epiphytic, the thick roots from its broad rhizomes clasping the surface of trees and rocks. That I would love to see.
Much taller is Hedychium densiflorum “Stephen”. This year I planted three in large black plastic pots with the intention of plunging them in the ground at the back of the border about now. Surprise, surprise the border is already clock-a-block, so they have joined a cluster of other potted plants near the front door. My garden designer friends would be horrified, but they cheer me up. Stephen’s flowers are longer and larger than those of “Assam Orange” and a lovely combination of soft yellow and orange. On the downside the flowers seem fairly shortlived, so I hope I don’t miss those that have just started to bloom today. With a bit of care I hope to get them through the winter in a similar way to the Cautleyas and look forward to bigger and better flowers next year.