EUROPEAN WILD GINGER
Asarum europaeum is considered one of the best and hardiest ground-covers for deeply shaded gardens.
Because it makes a dense carpet of glossy, decorative heart shaped leaves under trees and shrubs.
Award winning ground-cover for deep shade
In fact it has proved so reliable that the Royal Horticultural Society awarded the prestigious “Award of Garden Merit” to Asarum europaeum. The award is only given to plants with all round garden hardiness as well as beauty.
Weird brown velvet flowers
I look forward all year to the weird, spidery, brown velvet blooms that peek out from the foliage in late winter and early spring.
A perfect carpet in Deep Shade
Asarums make the perfect, easy, no care carpet under trees and shrubs.
Because their tough rhizomes can withstand all sorts of competition from tree roots.
And they are not plagued by slugs and snails.
However they are lovely planted where you brush or tread too, as the crushed foliage and rhizomes give off a sweet, spicy fragrance like ginger.
But do not make a mistake – they are not related to edible ginger.
Useful companions with bulbs
They are also lovely interplanted with bulbs like miniature daffodils.
Then the bulb flowers will poke up through, while the Asarum foliage covers the mess when the bulbs die back..
Growing: Asarum europaeum
EUROPEAN WILD GINGER
– Height with flowers: The whole dense carpet of foliage and flowers stands 15cm. high approx.
– Width: European Wild Ginger forms a slowly spreading carpet to a diameter of approx. 30-40cm. So it is not invasive.
– Position: Grows very happily in Deep Shade to Partial Shade. And it does not mind if the shade is evergreen or deciduous, as long as it is not in hot summer sun.
– Soil: Asarums are natural born forest and woodland plants. So of course they enjoy leaf litter, humus, mulch, and soils that are more retentive. Therefore loam and clay based soils are perfect for them, while they will struggle in sandy soils.
They are able to cope with a range of soil pH, on both the acid and alkaline (lime) side of neutral, and will accept quite a degree of lime.
Hardy & easy ground cover
– Water-wise: Asarums are water-wise plants, once they are established in the shade they enjoy. So average, normal garden watering is more than enough. They are also able to withstand a wait between drinks.
Despite their lush, exotic appearance, they are robust and resistant hardy plants.
– Frost: Asarums are very frost hardy, even in hard frosts well below -20C.
– Growth: Slowly spreading, dense carpet of lush foliage. Asarums will remain brightly evergreen in winter where overhead shade cover, and in milder districts. Whereas in severely cold winter and exposed areas they may go underground for a short period to protect themselves in the cold snap. However they will be back again, lusher and denser than ever with the first whiff of spring.
– Beneficial for wildlife: The weird flowers of Asarums are especially designed to attract pollinating bees, moths and butterflies.
– Low Care: Asarums are very low maintenance plants, just popping along all year covering up the ground under trees and shrubs. They are not invasive, but should your clump stray further than you want – they are easily pared back.
– Deer & Rabbit resistant: I am so glad to say – rabbits and deer don’t like the gingery taste of Asarums, despite their lush juicy appearance
Interesting history & herbalism
– Origin: Asarum europaeum is native to forests across widespread areas of Europe, and this accounts for its hardy, adaptable and unfussy nature.
– Host of unusual common names: Widespread habitats also accounts for the host of unusual common names.
So Asarum are also known as “asarabacca”, “European wild ginger”, “hazelwort” (they do like to grow in Hazel woodlands), “wild spikenard”, “snakeroot’ (yes the rhizome roots do look like tiny snakes) and “birthwort”.
“Birthwort” refers to when the village “wisewoman” would use Asarum during childbirth all those years ago.