The Exotic Garden Blog

A subtropical garden in a temperate climate that defies being in a city.

It’s belt and braces time here at the Exotic Garden…

Posted on | November 14, 2010 | 7 Comments

Building early snowmen!

Building an early snowmen!

After seven years of not protecting any of my clumps of the fabled root hardy banana ‘Musa basjoo’ and thinking we will never have a cold winter again – wishful thinking on my part – British gardeners were hit by the coldest winter for over thirty years. More than two decades old, the clumps lived up to their epithet of root hard banana and sprouted like mustard and cress by late spring. This is fine if you don’t mind them growing to only 5-10ft by this time of year, but for those of us who must have 15-18ft plus stems towering over the garden, wrapping them is the only way of guaranteeing huge plants. The garden really did feel as though something was missing this year, so next year it should be back to big and bold. I, like many gardeners that delight in growing plants on the edge of hardiness had been lead to a false sense of security. So, this winter I’m taking no chances which will probably mean a mild and balmy winter! Luckily it only got down to -5C here which is nothing compared to the spine freezing -9C to -15C I had heard of in other parts of the country.

I went to a local pet store emporium type place to get some bales of straw and was asked if I was using them to protect my bananas – so I’m not the only one who is taking a belt and braces root this winter! Straw is still relatively cheap at £2.00 a bale though I know it can cost more at smaller pet stores which is not a problem if you only have a few stems to wrap. The other thing required was a good amount of horticultural fleece which is also relatively cheap at just under £4.00 for a meter wide role 20m long. I nearly forgot – bamboo canes are also necessary of which I have a glut of here at the Exotic Garden.  As there are so many stems, I am experimenting by breaking and folding the large leaves down, so they hang against the trunks, then just wrapping in a few layers of fleece, (no straw) so it will be interesting to see if they survive just as well as the full belt and braces ones.

Breaking the leaf stalks and bending them down for added frost protection

Breaking the leaf stalks and bending them down for added frost protection

bibib

Pushing bamboo canes into the ground around the Musa basjoo clump

Pushing bamboo canes into the ground around the Musa basjoo clump

Straw bales ready for use

Straw bales and rolls of fleece ready for use

Wrapping round the first layer of fleece

Wrapping round the first layer of fleece

The first layer of straw is being added, not forgetting to fluff it up first as the bales are tightly packed

The first layer of straw is being added, not forgetting to fluff it up first as the bales are tightly packed

Dweezal just has to be in on the act!

Dweezal just has to be in on the act!

More fleece and straw

More fleece and straw

The top of the banana stems have now been reached

The top of the banana stems have now been reached

Filling with more straw around the tops of the stems to keep them snugg

Filling with more straw around the tops of the stems to keep them snugg

Pulling over a sheet of fairly thick polythene to keep the rain out – the sides are fine as air can circulate and keep them dry

Pulling over a sheet of fairly thick polythene to keep the rain out – the sides are fine as air can circulate and keep them dry

Securing the cover with wide parcel tape which will last all winter and won’t peal off

Securing the cover with wide parcel tape which will last all winter and won’t peal off

Taping all the way to the bottom so the wind won’t blow anything away,Then it’s finished and ready for whatever the winter wants to throw at it!  Not sure if it’s going to be cat proof though!

Taping all the way to the bottom so the wind won’t blow anything away, then it’s finished and ready for whatever the winter wants to throw at it! Not sure if it’s going to be cat proof though!

The next short sequence, as you know how it works now, is wrapping some small Musa sikkimensis which were only planted in the spring and not quite as hardy as Musa basjoo

Add some straw

You know how it works now....

You know how it works now....

And so on...

And so on...

Jamie is now a happy chappy, though he is probably already wondering which ones to do next!

Jamie is now a happy chappy, though he is probably already wondering which ones to do next!

And finally here are a few single Musa basjoo stems with the tallest one with just its leaves bent down and wrapped with fleece – the smaller two have a thin layer of straw and fleece

mmm

Jamie Spooner did most of the wrapping as someone had to take the photographs – well that’s my excuse! He is off to Australia in a few days, so he is doing as much as he can before he leaves the coolness of the UK for 28C in Sydney! A week or so back I suggested he started a blog, which he thought would be far too much of a bind, then a few days later I found him beavering away on his laptop, where he had not only started one, but had added all the bells and knobs he could find, so check it out – http://www.tumbleweedtraveller.blogspot.com. While on the subject of blogging, I must mention two other friends who have also joined this band of furious writers. My good friend John Westwood started up (with a bit of pushing from me) the night before he left, a blog about his current journey around India which I find totally fascinating as I went there about twenty years ago and fell in love with it. Searching for the colour in Parvati’s eyes. Just one more – Two friends of mine were married in September (the proposal took place in my tree house earlier this year) Chris & Siobhan Ridley are now on a six month honeymoon which started in Vanuatu in the south pacific http://www.twentyfifth.co.uk/.   All are being really good bloggers and writing at least every two days – for me though once a week is about right, so here we go with banana wrapping pictures which tell far more than words ever can…

Comments

7 Responses to “It’s belt and braces time here at the Exotic Garden…”

  1. Boca Joe
    November 14th, 2010 @ 10:51 pm

    hey Will-

    belts and braces look good- nice photo essay of the process.

    Still digging here, cannas, bananas, alocasias, brugs. Jack’s Giant produces a monster corm/clump as usual. It’s been about 18c or so all week. Beautiful yesterday and today about 20c.

    talk to you ye olde chappe

    Joe

  2. John Benger
    November 14th, 2010 @ 11:09 pm

    A very helpful Blog thankyou.

  3. Vicki Smith
    November 15th, 2010 @ 1:37 am

    Hi Will

    I’ve been following your blog on Facebook from Tasmania(AUS). I believe our climate is similar. I really enjoy seeing how you manage to grow such beautiful exotic plants there, it has encouraged me to try. I am a keen photographer also, love your photos!!

    cheers Vicki

  4. Will
    November 15th, 2010 @ 12:49 pm

    Hey Joe – Belt and braces it is, I don’t want a repeat of last winter. I wish we could grow Jack’s Giant to the ridiculous proportions you can – it’s just not warm enough in a UK summer to get such excellent growth. Good luck with your big pull in – the old geezer…

    John – glad the blog has been useful to you…

    Vicki – Yes, our climates are probably similar, it would be interesting to know what sorts of plants you grow? It might be hard work at time, but it’s certainly good fun. Keep taking the photographs…

  5. Robin
    November 16th, 2010 @ 10:11 pm

    Great to see the photos Will of all the good work that’s happened since we last visited. I’m thinking we’ll need to protect our own pots (nothing rare or exotic I’m afraid). Last night I made sure I wrapped our outside tap in cloth & then double wrapped carrier bags around it. It worked well last winter.
    To Jamie & you – enjoy the warm sun when you get to do your travelling, we’ll be here enjoying the winter.
    Last year I didn’t miss the daily bike ride from Hethersett to Thickthorn even in the ice & snow, you can’t give in to it AND it’s preferable to rain. Bon voyage!

  6. Layanee
    November 18th, 2010 @ 5:18 pm

    That is a great demonstration of how to protect these tender plants. I don’t think they would survive here even with that protection but I am keeping this in mind for other ‘tenders’.

  7. don
    October 24th, 2012 @ 4:55 pm

    Excellent demo from Jamie although the camera work was a bit wonky:-)
    I’ve always wondered if using the bales as building blocks around the musa might be an easier although more expensive alternative.
    What protection do you use these days on Dicksonia and other tree ferns?

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