I have often admired and envied the ginger lilies that grown in the garden of our neighbour from Paraguay. Cycling past her expertly tended gardens, when her tall, hedychium coranarium plants flower at the end of August and the beginning of September, I always greedily inhale the scent of the flowers and wish I could pick them. I probably sometimes have.
This year, just beyond the kitchen window, a big ginger lily – which D says came from a cutting from a friend of ours who moved back to Scotland nine years ago, and which has always been there, getting bigger each year, but has definitely never blossomed before (because you can be sure I would have noticed )- opened up out of the blue in the garden one day, just as we were about to go out. By the time we had returned home, it was open more fully, intensely fragrant – like a delicate gardenia infused with freshly cut ginger stems – and proceeded to keep flowering, and wilting, flowering and wilting as new buds kept opening up.
We were both really excited. I have never had a plant fragrant enough to disturb the senses from outside the window before – (if you discount our big osmanthus tree, which makes you almost too delirious come October)- but never a white flower, with that erotically petalled, lunescent trail of perfume trailing up at the moments when you least expect it. My mother has an incredible trellised jasmine back home that smells breathtaking in early summer; there were lilies here everywhere in July, wisteria in June; but this is the first time that I have ever had such a seductively scented flower of my own.