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.
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
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
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…