Hedychium coccineum 'Tara'

Accepted name

Hedychium coccineum 'Tara'

Comments This is a superb, strong growing plant for the garden with leafy shoots to 2 m, lovely glaucous foliage and spikes of spectacular orange to orange-red flowers 30 cm or more in height.

Tony Schilling discovered 'Tara' growing wild in Nepal in 1972.

From: Tony Schilling, A survey of cultivated Himalayan and Sino-himalayan Hedychium species. The Plantsman 4 (3): 129 - 149. (1982).
from page 133:

In November 1972 I collected seeds from a strong growing form of H. coccineum (Schilling 1184) from the 2,280 m high Nagarot ridge (7,500 ft) on the eastern rim of the Kathmandu valley. Plants raised from this 'blind collection' subsequently flowered out of doors at Wakehurst Place and received an Award of Merit from the RHS Committee B on 26 September, 1978, subject to the submission of a clonal name. The bold spikes bear flowers of Orange Group 24A and the much exerted styles are Orange-red Group 34B. The clone has been recorded as 'Tara' to honour my daughter, her name being Nepalese for 'star'. It might be of interest and some amusement to record here that Tara is also the Hindu goddess of Mercy, responsible for the special protection of those travelling over rocks or water!

Hedychium coccineum 'Tara' has subsequently proved to be an unexpectedly hardy plant having survived out of doors quite unscathed the extremely severe winter of 1981/82. Recent information confirms that stocks at Windsor Great Park, the RHS Garden at Wisley, as well as those in gardens sited in the colder counties of east Kent and Norfolk, have suffered no damage from what was unquestionably the hardest winter for several decades.

In 1993 'Tara' was awarded an AGM by the RHS and given the hardiness rating H3. This indicates that the RHS suggest that the plant is "hardy outside in some regions or particular situations or which, while usually grown outside in summer, needs frost free protection in winter e.g. dahlias". 'Tara' is much hardier than this implies and it does not need to be lifted each winter like a dahlia. Indeed, lifting 'Tara' every winter like a dahlia would almost certainly prevent it from ever flowering. 'Tara' is one of the hardiest and most reliable of the Hedychium for the open garden and remains green and leafy until it is frosted. 'Tara' does benefit from mulching in severe winter weather where frost is likely to penetrate the soil significantly but this is hardly necessary in most situations.

There is debate as to whether 'Tara' should i) be classified as a form of Hedychium coccineum as it was originally by Brian Mathew or ii) classified as Hedychium gardnerianum, as has been suggested by Tom Wood or iii) treated as a hybrid. I can so far see no convincing reasons for treating 'Tara' as Hedychium gardnerianum so I have kept it here under Hedychium coccineum pending formal publication of any nomenclature change. Whether in the garden or under glass I find that each inflorescence bract of 'Tara' produces 4 to 6 flowers in succession. This is similar to Hedychium coccineum but different from Hedychium gardnerianum which produces only 2 flowers per bract and at the same time. Although some people report otherwise, 'Tara' seems to have very little scent in my experience, even in the evening. Again this is similar to Hedychium coccineum (which admittedly has next to no scent in most forms) but quite different from Hedychium gardnerianum which is heavily fragrant. On the other hand, 'Tara' seems very similar Hedychium x raffillii and Hedychium x kewense which are reputedly synthetic hybrids between Hedychium coccineum and Hedychium gardnerianum; perhaps 'Tara' is a naturally occurring hybrid between Hedychium coccineum and Hedychium gardnerianum.

'Tara' originated as a 'blind' collection of seed by Tony Schilling in Nepal. When the seed germinated at Wakehurst Place the plants proved remarkably uniform and the group of seedlings (a grex) was eventually named 'Tara' in honour of Schilling's daughter. The word "tara" is Nepalese for "star". Since 'Tara' originated as a grex and not a clone there is the possibility for some variation in the plants in cultivation; this may have been increased by nurserymen raising ‘Tara’ from seed. I have grown one clone of 'Tara' that produces abundant pollen whereas another produces none. Variability in the cultivar may also explain occasional reports of 'Tara' being noticeably scented.


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last updated 24/09/2008