Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Alpinia calcarata

Sometimes called Snap ginger, Alpinia calcarata is a very easy evergreen species that blooms on old growth. Blooms can occur at nearly any time of the year, but peak flowering occurs from late spring to early summer. The inflorescence is carried upright on the end of the cane. Leaves are long and narrow, about 1 to 2 inches wide by 14 inches long.
The thin-stemmed canes arch gracefully from the weight of leaves and flowers. The inflorescence always grows erect, regardless of the degree of arch in the cane.
The clumps grow 3-4 feet in height and spread wider as they multiply. Rubbing or bruising the foliage releases a pleasantly spicy fragrance.
Rhizomes are thin with well-spaced canes.
Alpinia calcarata is recommended for USDA Zones 9-11. It is native to India and grows in sun or shade.
The rhizome is not considered edible, but laboratory tests in Sri Lanka concluded that the rhizomes have strong aphrodisiac qualities (at least in rats).

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Saturday, July 7, 2012

Alpinia nutans

Among the many types of gingers, Alpinia nutans is one that is grown primarily as a foliage plant because it supposedly rarely flowers in cultivation. It may just need the right cultural conditions. As you can see, the flowers are beautiful and it's one of the earliest gingers to bloom in spring. The erect inflorescence contrasts nicely with the dark green foliage.
The flower spikes appear on the ends of mature canes, so don't cut down the foliage in winter or you won't get blooms. 
Unopened buds are soft pink...
and pop open to reveal the vivid red and yellow lip.
This plant is sometimes sold as Dwarf Cardamom or False Cardamom. The foliage has a very pleasant cardamom scent when bruised, but this is not the species that produces the spice called cardamom.
The broad-leafed evergreen canes grow 3-5 feet tall and individual leaves grow about 3½ inches wide by 15 inches long. The canes crowd together in a dense clump and can live for years if not damaged by cold.
Alpinia nutans is recommended for USDA Zones 8-11. In Zone 8 the canes may freeze to the ground in the winter, then send up new growth in the spring. The foliage looks its best when grown in shade to part-sun locations.

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