Friday, February 29, 2008

Alpinia, Red Ginger, Ostrich Plume (Alpinia purpurata)

Alpinia, Red Ginger, Ostrich Plume or Alpinia Purpurata


Green-Crowned Brilliant Hummingbird Feeding on Ginger Torch © Frans LantingThe Zingiberaceae family includes about 40 genera of tropical gingers native to Indo-Malaysia, Indonesia, eastern Asia and Australia. Zingiber officinale, or commercial ginger, is grown and sold for its aromatic rhizomes, while other genera are grown for cut-flower use. Zingiber is derived from a Sanskrit word meaning "horn-shaped."

alpinia purpurata ginger by Forest & Kim Starr Availability and Vase Life

Year round.
14-21 days.

Care and Handling

Cold sensitive. Do not expose to temperatures below 45 F. If flowers appear wilted, soak the entire stem and bracts in room temperature (70-75 F) water for 1/2 an hour.

Design Uses

Pink ginger hawaiian alpinia, Pink Cone Ginger, © George B. DieboldGinger has a strong vertical line and is often used to add height to arrangements. May need to use wire to secure stems when using foam.

Colors: Bright red, pink.

The red flower of a ginger plant at Somerset Falls, Port Antonio, Jamaica. © Bob Krist
Red Ginger (Alpinia purpurata), also called Ostrich Plume and Pink Cone Ginger, are native Malaysian plants with showy flowers on long brightly colored red bracts. They look like the bloom, but the true flower is the small white flower on top.

Its two varieties are called Jungle King and Jungle Queen. Red Ginger grows in Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and many Central American nations, including Belize.

Red ginger can also be grown in South Florida since, in general, the region does not fall below freezing temperatures. It prefers partial shade and moist humid conditions, although it can tolerate full sun in some climates. It tends to like to be well watered and not left to dry out.

Ginger can also be grown as a houseplant and its cut flowers can be used in arrangements.

Ginger tends to spread.

Red Ginger, Alpinia, Ostrich Plume, Alpinia purpurata© Wolfgang Kaehler

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Allium species

Allium spp. (Ornamental Onion)

Credits to for the allium Rosenbachianum photoMeaning
Unity, humility, patience

The genus Allium includes a group of onion-, chive- and garlic-related flowering plants that have been prized since ancient times for their medicinal, aphrodisiac and culinary qualities. Members of the Liliaceae family, two allium varieties are commonly used by today's florists. Allium giganteum, or giant onion, measures 3 to 4 feet tall and features 4- to 5-inch, white, blue, lavender or purple snowball-shaped inflorescences atop bare stems, while A. sphaerocephalon, or drumstick chives, are 2 to 3 feet tall, with smaller, oval-shaped, purple flowers.

Vase Life
7-10 days.

Care and Handling
To revive flattened heads, hold upside down with stem between palms of hands and roll back and forth to spin and fluff head. Onion odor emitted when cut will dissipate, but avoid using hot water, which tends to intensify smell.

Design Uses
A striking flower form with a strong line element, allium works well in designs ranging from flowing to sparse.

Colors: Lilac, lavender, violet-blue, ans white.

Purple Allium © Paul EdmondsonAllium is the onion genus, with about 1250 species, making it one of the largest plant genera in the world. They are perennial bulbous plants that produce chemical compounds (mostly cystein sulfoxide) that give them a characteristic onion or garlic taste and odor, and many are used as food plants. Allium is classified in family Alliaceae although some classifications have included it in the lily family (Liliaceae).

Allium species occur in temperate climates of the northern hemisphere, except for a few species occurring in Chile (as Allium juncifolium), Brazil (Allium sellovianum) or tropical Africa (Allium spathaceum). They can vary in height between 5 cm and 150 cm. The flowers form an umbel at the top of a leafless stalk. The bulbs vary in size between species, from very small (around 2–3 mm in diameter) to rather big (8–10 cm). Some species (such as Welsh onion, A. fistulosum) develop thickened leaf-bases rather than forming bulbs as such.

Most bulbous alliums increase by forming little bulbs or "offsets" around the old one, as well as by seed. Several species can form many bulbils (tiny bulbs) in the flowerhead; in the so-called "tree onion" (A. cepa Proliferum Group) the bulbils are few, but large enough to be used for pickling.

Members of the genus include many valued vegetables such as onions, shallots, leeks and herbs such as garlic and chives. A strong "oniony" odor is characteristic of the whole genus, but not all members are equally flavorful.

Some Allium species, including A. cristophii and A. giganteum, are used as border plants for their flowers, and their "architectural" qualities. Several hybrids have been bred, or selected, with rich purple flowers. Allium hollandicum 'Purple Sensation' is one of the most popular and has been given an Award of Garden Merit (H4). By contrast, other species (such as the invasive Allium triquetrum) can become troublesome garden weeds.

Various Allium species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera including Cabbage Moth, Common Swift moth (recorded on garlic), Garden Dart moth, Large Yellow Underwing moth, Nutmeg moth, Setaceous Hebrew Character moth, Turnip Moth and Schinia rosea, a moth which feeds exclusively on Allium sp.

Allium flower lilac green © Clive Nichols

Monday, February 18, 2008

Agapanthus africanus

Agapanthus africanus (African Lily, Lily of the Nile)

Agapanthus africanus, African Lily, Lily of the Nile, Agapanthus umbellatus, Blue African Lily, photo, image, pic, picsOrigins
A member of the Amaryllidaceae family, the agapanthus derives its name from the Greek words for "love" and "flower." Agapanthus orientalis and Agapanthus africanus, 2 of about 9 species in this group of South African herbs, and the varieties used most often by florists, have many lovable characteristics. Large, round heads covered with blue or white tubular flowers top each tall, elegant agapanthus stem.

Vase Life
6-10 Days

Design Uses
Provides a strong line element with a bold but spacious quality. Individual florets can be wired and taped for corsage work.

Blue, lavender, and white.

Agapanthus africanusAgapanthus africanus, African Lily, Lily of the Nile, Agapanthus umbellatus, Lavender African Lily, lavender, white, photo, image, pic, pics (African lily; syn. Agapanthus umbellatus) is a member of the family Alliaceae and a native of the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.

It has a short stem bearing a tuft of long, narrow, arching leaves 10-35 cm long and 1-2 cm broad, and a central flower stalk 25-60 cm tall, ending in an umbel of 20-30 bright blue, funnel-shaped flowers, each flower 2.5-5 cm diameter.


It was introduced to Europe at the close of the 17th century as a handsome greenhouse plant, and is hardy outdoors in the south of England and Ireland if protected from severe frosts. The plants are easy to cultivate and (in areas that have winter) are generally grown in large pots or tubs that can be protected from frost.

Several cultivars are known, such as 'Albus' (with white flowers), 'Sapphire' (dark blue flowers), 'Aureus' (leaves striped with yellow), and 'Variegatus' (leaves almost entirely white with a few green bands). There are also double-flowered and larger- and smaller-flowered cultivars.

During the summer they require plenty of water and are very effective on the margins of lakes or by running streams, where they thrive. They may be propagated from offsets or by dividing the rootstock in early spring or autumn.

Avaiable from April to December

Agapanthus africanus, African Lily, Lily of the Nile, Agapanthus umbellatus, Blue African Lily, photo, image, pic, pics