Thursday, January 22, 2009

A long wait is over

I had posted something earlier this month here
about the troubles I had last year with little rotters munching on every last one of my ginger lily flowers. Adopting the "try, try, try again" motto of the determined fool, today I have much better news – blooms!

This morning's happy scene, with the ginger lily, Hedychium gardnerianum, in full bloom atop its 1.5m long stem.

The reference books say that these flowers are fragrant, and they are, but merely slightly and only when you deliberately set your nose the assignment of finding some scent. It's not a scent that seeks you out (unlike my strongly sweet frangipani and murraya perfumes). However, the red and yellow flower colours are just a bit richer and lovelier than my camera can capture, and definitely the highlight of beholding this beauty in bloom.

Being tall, the ginger lily's flower spikes rise above the dense murraya hedge which screens off my untidy potting/composting zone, so we can enjoy the sight of the ginger lily in bloom from the kitchen and Pam's office/studio.

The development of the flower spikes is all part of the plant's drama, taking three or four weeks to develop then flower. There are seven stems to the plant this year and only one is in bloom so far. Five others have flower spikes in some stage of development, and the last one so far hasn't produced anything, despite looking perfectly healthy otherwise.

Once the flower spike gets to size, it then takes about a week or more to slowly open out to this shape. I am sure its opening would be a marvel to watch in a time-lapse sequence. The flower's unfurling process has a decidedly mechanical quality to it, with the arms folding out and down into position and, once they're at the right angle and locked into place, then growing a bit more in length, prior to sending out a few thin red tongues of stamen first, followed by the yellow petals and the rest of the stamens.

Standing back a few feet, here's the cramped jungle in which the ginger lily thrives. To the left the glossy green leaves of the murraya hedge, to the right the crinkled broad fronds of a native bird's nest fern. As I mentioned earlier, the ginger lily's stems are about 1.5m tall, and red patches mark the spot where each leaf joins the stem. All in all a handsome thing perfectly suited to the dappled light under the olive tree.

I had to laugh when I looked up one of my reference books to find out more about this plant. Apparently it's regarded as a weed in the North Island of New Zealand, so that superb temperate climate tells you something about its ideal growing conditions. Many, many garden plants are capable of becoming a weed somewhere on this planet. All they need is ideal growing conditions and a lack of the various predators/competitors that keep them under control in their home range. This ginger lily apparently comes from the Indian Himalayas, so it's a long way from home, but it seems happy enough here in Sydney and looks set to become a highlight here every summer.


Chandramouli S said...

Hi Jamie, That's a beautiful plant and great study on it! I remember seeing about this in North eastern parts of India. Nice :)

Michelle Outback said...

Jamie, we had a ginger lily for a while, they seem to smell a lot stronger at night, as you may have discovered by now. It was gorgeous sitting outside in the evening.

Just been catching up on your entries, cut across to Chookie's Backyard to look at the Chook Primer, a very interesting and useful entry. You should consider a couple of chooks in your garden, we're enjoying looking after Dusty's while he's away, they are very entertaining and give you lovely fresh eggs AND fertiliser for your garden!

Jamie said...

Thanks for your comments, Chandramouli S, much appreciated indeed.

And hi Michelle, hope your eye is rapidly improving.
I'll check out the ginger lily's scent tonight.
And would you believe Pam and I discussed getting some chooks the other day? She's of the school which says "OK but you have to do all the work feeding cleaning and watering them etc". She's not a pet person! I just have to figure out where to squeeze the chooks in to my tiny plot.
Chookie's blog is great, and if you go back to her chooks post and click on the link to the Big Kitchen Table at the top of that post, there's even more good stuff on chooks at the Down_to_Earth blog.

gardenerprogress/Catherine said...

I've never seen a ginger lily before. I learned something new today!

Michelle said...

Oh that ginger lily is beautiful! I never really had much success growing them. Thanks for sharing.

patientgardener said...

Fantastic - what a reward for your dogged perserverance

Megan said...

I guess I should have known they bloomed, but I've only ever seen the leaves up here in my climate. It's quite amazing, I love how it emerges pre-boom.

Pam Kersting said...

What a lovely Ginger lily! We have similar plants here in eastern North Carolina, USA. The more common one, however, is hedychium coronarium or Hawaiian Ginger Lily. They are most fragrant in the late afternoon/early evening and here in the US they attract these huge moths at dusk. At first you think they are hummingbirds, but actually, they are very large moths.

buedamau said...

I didn't know this lilly either, but it's fantastic!
we really learn a new thing each day and today i found i have to get a ginger lilly too! thank you