The Tea Break Gardener

My Gardening Week – Six on Saturday 14.04.18

My Gardening Week – Six on Saturday 14.04.18

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

Banana stems unwrapped

Banana stems just unwrapped after winter protection

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.

Hardy banana Musa basjoo in high summer

Hardy banana Musa basjoo in high summer filling a corner by my gate

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

Large clump of canna rhizomes ready for splitting

Large clump of canna rhizomes ready for splitting

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.

canna rhizomes after splitting

Large clump of canna rhizomes split into four

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.


Daphne mezereum

Daphne mezereum flowers

Daphne mezereum pinky-mauve flowers with parma violet scent

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


Trillium plants

A beautiful selection of perky trillium plants waiting to be planted out

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.

Trio of trilliums

Trio of trilliums planted in a shady spot,

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

Rose food granules

Rose food granules

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.

The Renaissance Garden at David Austen Rose Garden, Albrighton, Worcestershire

The Renaissance Garden at David Austen Rose Garden, Albrighton, Worcestershire

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

Dahlia tubers sprouting

Dahlia tubers sprouting quickly indoors

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.


  1. Lora Hughes April 14, 2018 at 11:12 am - Reply

    I’ve never given the hardy banana a 2nd thought until reading your post. The multi-stem effect you got last summer is quite wonderful. Am I sensing a banana in my future?

    • Katharine April 14, 2018 at 7:22 pm - Reply

      I don’t think you’ll regret a banana purchase. So lovely and lush and yet pretty tough.

  2. Fred April 14, 2018 at 12:29 pm - Reply

    I did like you for 5 years for my Musa Basjoo and it recovers perfectly every spring. About the Cannas, I planted my rhizomes in big pots a few weeks ago and they have been popping out for a few days … I’m happy to see them but I wait a little before taking them outside.

    • Katharine April 14, 2018 at 7:20 pm - Reply

      I’m thinking I should have done like you and potted up my cannas sooner. Hopefully they’ll sprout soon…

  3. Ali, The Mindful Gardener April 14, 2018 at 12:51 pm - Reply

    Your banana looks fantastic – dare I say it, better than Monty’s? (I said that very quietly).
    Glad you said that about your dahlias being inside. I was fretting about mine this morning – I think I potted them up 3 weeks ago and nothing! But they’re in the greenhouse. Will be patient.

    • Katharine April 14, 2018 at 7:19 pm - Reply

      Yes I definitely think be patient with the dahlias. Sprouting has been noticeably quicker indoors but my family are a bit cheered off with them everywhere! Back to the greenhouse next year I think.

      • Katharine April 14, 2018 at 7:20 pm - Reply

        Oh and thanks about the comment. Not certain mine is better than Monty’ s and he has a red Abyssinian banana to die for!

  4. Paddy April 14, 2018 at 5:11 pm - Reply

    That hardy banana looks fantastic! I’ve never really paid attention to them before, but that definitely works well as a structural plant 😀

    • Katharine April 14, 2018 at 7:17 pm - Reply

      They are really lovely. Great structure and beautiful ribbed leaves which look great with the sun shining through. They’re a wonder to watch unfurl.

  5. Ciar April 14, 2018 at 5:19 pm - Reply

    Like the others am envious of your banana plant. Do they need sun or will they grow in shade?
    And what do you feed your roses with?

    • Katharine April 14, 2018 at 7:16 pm - Reply

      I have always grown them in partial shade – sunny for some of the day but not all. That banana in the picture faces east-ish so gets morning sun but nothing after about 1pm. Full shade would probably lead to a bit of a weedy plant.

  6. Jude April 14, 2018 at 5:59 pm - Reply

    I can see that reading the SoS posts could become an expensive habit. So many plants to covert!
    BTW you might want to change the address for David Austen – Albrighton is near Wolverhampton / Shropshire and nowhere near Worcestershire 🙂

    • Katharine April 14, 2018 at 7:10 pm - Reply

      Thanks Jude. Yes every time I look at an SOS I see something lovely. Thanks for tip off about Austen’s location too!

  7. cavershamjj April 14, 2018 at 7:45 pm - Reply

    Nothing dahlias either, all in the greenhouse for weeks. Hopefully a bit of sun will see them perk up. I shall feed my roses too i think. I want maximum flower power.

    • Katharine April 14, 2018 at 7:49 pm - Reply

      The sun makes all the difference! I was a but sceptical about feeding roses specific rose food but last year they definitely put on a good show…

  8. Ann April 14, 2018 at 8:55 pm - Reply

    I’ve left my Cannas in the ground for the last couple of years. The slugs tend to have a feast on them as they emerge and so I dug them up about a month ago and split them. I now have so many I shall have to give some away! I’ve never been successful with Daphne which is a shame as they are so beautiful

  9. Northern Garden April 14, 2018 at 9:27 pm - Reply

    Love Trilliums. Got a couple of clumps in the garden, bought a couple of plants last year, and just got some germinating 8from seed at the moment – I’ll have to be patient to see them eventually flower.

    • Katharine April 14, 2018 at 9:58 pm - Reply

      It was your ones that inspired me to buy some! Remember you wrote about them a couple of weeks ago.

Leave A Comment