Serendipity is my favourite word.
It trips off the tongue and it has such a lovely optimistic meaning: “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way”. It sums up how we came across our first ginger plants which, even as I write, look blooming marvellous on a dull rainy day in the Old Vicarage garden.
Off The Beaten Track
We often take the coast road to the Llyn peninsular in North Wales. Spoiled by the spectacular Mountains of Snowdonia to the south and the mysterious Druidic island of Ynys Mon (Anglesey) across the Menai Straits to the north. We rattle along, hoping to get through the traffic bottleneck of Caernarfon, without paying any attention to the minor roads on either side.
One day in late summer last year the traffic was heavier than usual. So we turned off heading into the hills. The road had the beguiling name of Lon Ffynnon Farr and we hoped it would be an effective short cut. Spotting the roadside sign for Crug Farm Plants, we realised we recognised it from television footage from the Chelsea Flower Show. Sure enough, a couple of miles down the road, we saw the sign for the farm. Without rhyme or reason, we turned in.
It was a case of “slowing down and taking time to smell the roses”. In the case of Crug Farm though, the “roses” are replaced with all manner of exotica. Rambling vines, heavy with kiwi fruit, cover the outbuildings. It’s clearly a working garden centre with lines of polytunnels.
Crug Farm Plants
Crug Farm Plants is home to Bleddyn and Sue Wynn-Jones celebrated plant hunters, certified collectors and propagators.
Each autumn they go in search of exotic plants they think will be easy to grow and hardy in temperate climates. Perfect for climates such as ours. Their farm and outbuildings are unassuming at first glance, but look closer, and there’s a whole new world to explore. Their catalogue bears witness to their singular vision, we just didn’t know it yet.
We walked through the shopfront into a courtyard where some of their plants are displayed. My ignorance of most of the plants was both exciting and confusing. We bought three plants in 3 litre pots. Two of them were a particular type of ornamental ginger. Each with a couple of broad leaves and a single flower spike of maroon and deep yellow.
They didn’t look substantial enough for a full display on their own though. We planted them in their pots because we weren’t sure how they would fare. At the bottom of the garden near our leopard plants they were fine, if unspectacular. They then died back in the winter.
Don’t You (Forget About Me)
I have to say I forgot about them until, in early spring, my wife enquired how they were? Surely I’d put them in the cold frame to protect them?
I dug them up and there was a depressing lack of action. Hoping not to be questioned again, I belatedly popped them in the cold frame. Sure enough new growth started forcing its way through. In much the same way as large hostas do but with a deep reddish hue.
By chance, Monty Don was potting up some of his own ginger plants suggesting they would be prolific and spectacular performers from late to mid summer. My two little survivors from Crug Farm looked strong but much smaller, so I doubled them up in a single large pot. I covered them with some grit and hoped for the best whilst fearing something more modest.
Ginger Plants are go
But then…wow. I’m a believer! The rhizomes look like they’re going to split the pot and their display has been both magnificent and long lasting.
I’m now scouring Crug Farm’s on-line catalogue for more specimens of ginger and other temperate exotica for next year. I can hardly wait.
Just call me Ginger Man. And I don’t mean Ed Sheeran…