The sun is out today and boy have I missed it. There has been 8 days of perma-cloud where I live in the Chiltern Hills. However, many of the tasks in the garden this week promise colour and full on tropical excess this coming summer.
Unwrapping my bananas
I have grown the hardy banana Musa basjoo for many years and have always tucked it up for winter. The term hardy in the case of the hardy banana relates to the fact that the roots will survive cold and wet and will grow multiple stems from this root when the warmth arrives. If you want to grow a large single stem, or series of large stems, you will need to wrap the bananas to protect them over the winter.
Will Giles was mentioned last night on Gardeners World and my first technique for wrapping bananas was learned from him some years back. First you hack off the top leaves in late autumn, then build a cage of chicken wire around the stem, pack around it with straw, cover the top with plastic – tied on so that it doesn’t blow away.
I always found this is bit of a rigmarole and was relieved in the autumn of 2016 when I made the decision that I no longer wanted one single stem but wanted a series of smaller stems to fill a corner by a gate. That autumn I got a year off from wrapping.
This picture shows how effective it was – one stem became many. To preserve the same look, I decided to protect these stems so last autumn I did need to wrap them. Cutting off the leaves feels a cruel thing to do, especially when there’s a new leaf about to unfurl. It has to be done though and there is always a faint bananary whiff from the moisture laden stems.
This year I couldn’t face the chicken wire technique as I was in a hurry and didn’t have any straw. Instead I wove lots of horticultural fleece around and between the stems then added an extra layer with an old wooly blanket. Finally I put a very large plastic bucket over the top of it all to stop it getting too damp.
The stems have survived my botched wrapping despite our gruesome winter. There’s always a bit of blackened sogginess at the tips but I just cut this off at an angle and the new leaves twist out of the top. Bananas have an astounding pace of growth. I’ve given these a bit of manure and will keep them well watered over the summer.
Bringing Cannas back into growth
I have three Cannas. One is ‘Cleopatra’ and I’m not sure about the other two. These were dug up last autumn and put into large pots of dryish compost in the shed.
The shed is very damp and this week I went to inspect the cannas with some trepidation.
Fortunately, they all look in fine fettle and there was only one small area of rot on one of the clumps.
The largest clump is now very big indeed to I decided to split this. Two little rhizomes broke away easily from the edge with my hands and then I split the remaining bit into two large clumps with a sharp knife.
All the cannas have now all been potted up and are sitting on the base of my heated propagator in the kitchen. I can’t wait to see them shoot.
I’ve been a bit disappointed in this Daphne, which I planted two years ago. It seams to be very slow growing, is still fairly spindly and isn’t exactly covered in flowers.
The scent is really lovely though – reminiscent of parma violet sweets – and I caught this scent on the breeze as I leaned in to take this photograph.
I shall definitely persevere with it and if anyone has any tips on how to give it some oomph I’d love to hear from you.
A Trillium treat
Six on Saturday is to blame for my financial splurge this week on a collection of Trilliums from Edrom nursery in Scotland. There have been some lovely pictures of trilliums over the last few weeks and I finally bit the bullet.
The plants arrived by post, well packaged and protected. All but one already have some decent leaves on the way. I’m sure the straggler will catch up.
They’ve been planted out in trios in shady areas with plenty of leaf mould and grit. I’ll be keeping a close eye on them.
Feeding my roses
It seemed like a good time this week to feed my roses as soft rain was forecast to settle it in. I hate doing this when heavy rain is forecast as I worry all that expensive goodness may leach beyond reach of the roots.
I never used to be a big one for feeding my roses, aside from giving them a shovel of manure every now and again. But, in 2015 I planted many new roses and I have tried very hard to look after them well.
My new roses came from the famous David Austen Rose nursery in Worcestershire, which I visited with a friend in 2015. I couldn’t help noticing how robust and healthy the roses were in their rose garden. They give them a proprietary organic rose feed and so I vowed I’d treat my new roses once a year.
I just go round with a bucket, give a tip of the trowel worth of granules round the base each one and nestle it in with the trowel. It takes minutes but I feel sure it’s minutes that will result in huge blooms this summer.
Dahlias coming on nicely
I’m very pleased with how my new dahlia tuburs are coming on. Some have grown so quickly that I’ve already put them out into my crowded cold frames.
I usually bring them into growth potted up in the greenhouse but as my new one is still not finished they’ve been in the house. I’m sure they’ve been quicker to come into growth than usual, probably because the extremes of temperature are lower indoors.
There’s allot of decent material for cuttings but I may resist temptation there as I’m not sure I need even more plants. Then again, I could always give them away…
Six on Saturday is a weekly meme – take a look at the comments at the base of host The Propagator to see more ‘sixes’ from other keen gardeners from all over the world.