It is almost a year since I last planted heliconias and other members of the Zingiberales order along the peripheral of my community garden at Serangoon North. It was an attempt to create a green but colourful wall of plants to shield one’s view of the vegetable garden located inside, which can be visually unappealling at certain times of the year. During the rainy season, the planting beds can be bare as there is a difficulty in raising seedlings as they do get battered by the heavy downpours and attacked by snails and slugs.
My very lush clump of Heliconia ‘Temptress’.
Due to the slight incline of the terrian around the community garden, it does get quite wet during the rainy season. I was careful to choose the type of plants to be planted there. Friends have warned me to avoid the growing of some woody plants such as trees and shrubs as these prefer well-drained areas but so far, they are still fine. These taller plants have been planted to provide a background and confer shade and wind protection for the heliconias and its cousins.
The first inflorescence produced by Heliconia ‘Temptress’.
Heliconias and other members of the Zingiberales order were chosen because they love constantly moist soil and I have found out, they are able to tolerate short periods of waterlogging that the land around my community garden experiences. In general, I find that they require relatively low maintenance which involved mostly the trimming away of dead pseudostems or spent inflorescences. They do not the extensive pruning that is needed by woody shrubs to keep them in shape. Once they are established, they also do tolerate drought quite well.
My very large clump of Heliconia bihai ‘Nappi’.
That is the rough background as to why heliconias and its relatives are planted around my community garden. One year has passed and for those who have seen those plants, they would have noticed that the heliconias have grown quite tall and spreading rather widely and together, they give the environment a very lush look. For a long time, the plants have been putting forth leaves and no blooms.
One of the at least other four inflorescences produced by ‘Nappi’.
During my recent visit to my community garden, I did my routine rounds of ‘inspecting the contingents’ as I walked down and inspected the heliconias that have been planted in a row. I was delighted to see the first inflorescence that was produced by my Heliconia ‘Temptress’ (Heliconia chartacea x platystachys). This hybrid heliconia is a beautiful one that is well known for its reddish orange pendant inflorescences. It is like the red version of its pink counterpart, Heliconia chartacea ‘Sexy Pink’. Note that ‘Sexy Pink’ is not a hybrid like ‘Temptress’. I have a ’Sexy Pink’ that has yet to flower…
The next heliconia that gave me a more unexpected surprise was Heliconia bihai ‘Nappi’. For a long time, the clump just grew bigger and I was puzzled why my plant just simply refuse to flower. I have seen comparatively smaller clumps grown elsewhere blooming their heads off. My clump finally decided to flower only now and the first appearance of its bright yellow bracts that contrast starkly against its green foliage which caught my attention when I walked past the clump recently. Unlike ’Temptress’, ‘Nappi’ was more productive as it produced more than one inflorescence upon closer inspection – I counted and found out there are at least four inflorescences that are emerging.
These are the two of the handful of heliconias I have in my community garden. I am delighted to know they are flowering for the first time despite the fact that they are now rather ‘common’ heliconias which can be found on sale in our local nurseries. Although they may be ‘common’ now, what matter to me is that these heliconias are easily to tend to and from time to time, put on a spectacular floral show to wow my residents and colour up the monotonous green environment around them.