Ensete ventricosum: as seen at Woolbeding Gardens, Sussex
After all that snow last month, with accompanying panic involving yards of horticultural fleece and bubble-wrap, I finally got round to doing the job properly.
My poor banana plant…
I hope to goodness I’m doing this right. This year was the first time I’ve ever grown bananas, and I’ve become completely hooked – something about watching them grow by about a foot a day – but this is a bit nerve-wracking. I looked it all up, and they say you have to chop off all the leaves and put it somewhere frost-free. I’ve potted it up in a 50:50 mix of compost and sand, which should take care of the drainage, but oh it looks so miserable. To say nothing of that worrying list to the top spike. I think I may have removed one too many leaves. Well – it’ll live or it’ll die, I suppose.
More straightforward was the Musa basjoo by the pond. When you chop the leaves off this one, you don’t have to look at it as you immediately cover it in lots of straw, so you can kid yourself it’s all cosy and warm in there. I’ve used an old bit of green plastic fencing to hold it all in place, and that plastic on the top is a bit of bubble wrap just to keep the worst of the rain off and stop it all rotting. I’ll also be wrapping a couple of layers of fleece round the whole thing, partly as insurance, partly because it’ll look marginally better if I do.
I hear of lots of tales of Musa being left outside all winter long these days with never a setback, but since we’re not really within the London microclimate here and this is only a one-year-old plant, I thought I’d best not risk it. One day I’ll have a 20-ft monster which I’ll be only too pleased to have cut down by the frost – but not just yet.
I can’t believe it… we had our first frost of the year at the weekend.
This is the first time I can remember having a frost before November down here. We’re an energetic spit from the M25 after all and what with global warming I was looking forward to comfortably making it through to Christmas before turning on the greenhouse heater before many years had gone by.
But no – we woke to a lawn frosted with ice. I raced off down the garden, heart in my mouth to have a look at the Ensete ventricosum that my father-in-law lovingly raised from seed and then gave to me (or rather my eight-year-old daughter); it’s been growing like topsy all year and is now a good 10ft high and still heading skywards. It’s been my pride and joy, and I was just getting ready to dig it up for winter and snuggle it down in the greenhouse, but here I was, caught short.
I was so relieved to find that that Colutea arborescens which arches over it had kindly protected it from the frost and it was still intact and as robust as ever. Lucky escape. Not so fortunate were the crops up at the allotment – the Sarpo Mira potatoes had all the tops frosted (not such a big deal as I was already harvesting them) and more upsettingly the sweetcorn I rescued from rat attack with the help of my feline friends had been totally clobbered, as had the butternut squash underneath. I had a nice big squash ripening up too. That’s got an ominous grey patch on it but I’m hoping I can salvage at least some for my favourite roast veg dish.
Blimey, I can’t keep up with this climate thing. I can cope with daffs in November; I can even see the bright side over these ridiculous amounts of rain over summer (I haven’t had to water the allotment for a whole two years now). But the unpredictability is a little unnerving at times like these. I just wish it would make its mind up and stay like that for a bit.