How do you protect large but tender plants growing in the garden for winter? We had a very interesting task to do at Gravetye last week.
Bananas and tree ferns growing in our Flame Border (the name suggests the colourful variations of plants growing in it) had to be covered, in case winter decides to come. With only a few cold mornings, large banana leaves send us a visible sign, telling us it’s time to keep us warm! To do this, a very traditional way is used. First of all, all leaves were cut, leaving only unfolded leaves at the top. Bamboo canes were necked-down in a circle around the stems leaving approx. 5 inches between stakes and plant. Jute twine was tied around the canes in a spiral way, leaving 5-7 inch gaps in between. The whole inside of the circle is then filled with straw. The boundary of the circle is always filled first, so the banana stumps are all inside, with a good layer of straw protecting them from the outside. The straw must be filled in firmly, to prevent wind and moisture reaching the inside of the structure, which could lead to early deterioration of the straw and thus decreasing the protection. Continuously, straw is layered up to the top of the canes. Sizes and shapes of straw spires vary according to the size of the bananas. Bigger groups of stumps are quite wide, creating almost a tower effect when wrapped. Some of them have a nice conical shape, which if decorated, could well serve as a not-so-traditional Christmas tree!
Words and images by Valéria Valková