These beautifully scented gems are the stars of the show and why we open the garden mainly in September.
Hedychium ‘Devon Cream’ in the foreground with ‘Corelli’ taller and whiter behind
In their native Asia, hedychiums grow in woodand margins with filtered sunshine. In northerly climates, however, they need full sun and as long a season as possible to get them to flower before October. The only one that tolerates much shade is Hedychium densiflorum which is perhaps the least impressive of the bunch but will grow practically anywhere.
We informally split the hedychiums into 3 sections. Firstly there are those which are very hardy and reliably flower in August in the UK. They tend to be the least impressive (relatively speaking), or often quite fleeting in flower.
Hedychium densiflorum – unnamed form similar to ‘Assam Orange’ This is a relatively dull hedychium, however it is bone hardy, flowers in part shade and forms huge clumps that flower for 6 weeks r so from late July so is a pretty useful addition to the tropical border.
Heychium densiflorum ‘Sorung’ Totally hardy, reliably flowers in August with no special treatment and has a faint scent. Each flower stays open 3 to 4 days and a mass display will do 3 weeks or so
Heychium densiflorum ‘Stephen’ see ‘Sorung’ above for description
Hedychium yannanense. This small (to about 2ft) species has small spidery flowers and little scent, but it is a very cheerful little thing and is always the first into flower from mid July and heralds great things to come.
Hedychium ‘Helen Dillon’ (and H. forrestii on the right) There are a number of white flowered species (H. forrestii, H spicatum and a few others) which are quite similar and have hybridised causing great confusion. They are all pretty much hardy, need little care and flower in August with pretty orange fruits in October, ‘Helen Dillon; is the most substantial form and worth looking out for. All are unfussy and worthy additions to the tropical border
Hedychium spicatum. Another easy to grow and hardy hedychium Like H. forrestii in the previous picture this has flowers pointing down as opposed to the upwards facing and more scented ‘Helen Dillon’
Hedyhium Tara. The most dramatic plant in this category. Its parentage is somewhat disputed, it was discovered by Tony Shilling. Apparently some sold under this name are scented, ours are not. It was not a single plant collection as he collected seed which was subsequently germinated on his return, technically this is known a a ‘grex’ and therefore some variability should be expected. Don’t worry about that, just revel in the glory of pretty much the most stunning hardy tropical looking plant you can grow. If you want to start somewhere with hedychium this could be the one to get first (or Devon Cream – see below). The only downside is that each inflorescence only lasts 5 or 6 days. a decent clump will do several weeks however and will impress everyone who sees it. Tony Shilling also discovered Hedychium ‘Stephen’ (above). The two plants were named after his children.
The second group are all hardy, but need a little extra help to bloom early enough. Since they are all superb and have exquisite scents, it is well worth the little extra effort required.
Hedychium ‘Devon Cream’ – in our view the number one heychium to grow. Devon Cream is a hybrid of H. coronarium and H. garnerianum. It has a wonderful scent,will flower in late August for 6 weeks (each inflorescence carries on for a week or more and a clump will stagger flowering) bulks up very quickly, is hardy (likes a south facing slope and cover from worst cold e.g.fleece). Best of all it gets its name partly from our garden. It used to be called H.’Dixter’ but Christopher Lloyd didn’t approve as it did not originate there. In order to take it to a show, the late great David Constantine (no relation to the famous fictional demon hunter) needed to give it a valid name. He chose ‘Devon Cream’ partly because the earliest recorded sighting was at Coleton Fishacre in the South of the county and partly because, as he said, ‘One of customers from Devon says it grows particularly well in their garden.’ which, of course, was us!
Heychium gardnerianum (front). This is a quite variable species and some forms are early and free flowering, others less so. a good one like this is a thing of beauty with beautiful spiky flowers and a sensuous earthy scent. This raised bed is a good 18 inches higher at the back creating an artificial south facing slope.
Hedychium ‘Corelli’ This hybrid of H. coronaium and H. ellipticum was formerly know as H coronarium ‘Flat Top’ until David Constantine sorted it out and gave it a valid name. This could be the one to knock Devon Cream off the top spot. it has a beautifully clean and strong citrus scent, is taller and is strikingly white. The only things that stops it taking the top spot is that it is not so quick to multiply. In any case, you will probably want to grow both!
Hedychium gardnerianum x Hedychium ellipticum (probably) No valid name for this one which we may have the only bit of. Came to us as ‘Dixter’ which we know to be an invalid synonym for ‘Devon Cream’ (see above). I thought it was ellipticum because of its ‘shaving brush’ shape, but it’s too creamy, suggesting gardnerianum as its other parent. However it is hardy, scented, beautiful and flowers late August/early September so we just enjoy it.