Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Everybody Loves My Big Banana

Morning view

Pretty much the first thing anybody sees, or remarks upon, in photos of my garden is my banana.  The above photo shows how it looked this morning.  Yes, I have a big banana.

Musa basjoo is commonly known as the "hardy banana" because it is indeed quite hardy, surviving temperatures well below freezing.  In colder climates it acts like a giant perennial, the pseudostems freezing to the ground ever winter and springing back the following summer.  My plant has been in the ground since 2002 and the only protection I have ever given it is a modest pile of mulch, compost, autumn leaves, and/or whatever I happen to cut down in the garden in the fall.

You don't always realize just how fast some plants can grow until you take a few photos over the growing season and compare them.  The next photo shows my garden in early June; pay special attention to that little banana plant just barely visible in the upper left.  Yes, this is that very same banana at the beginning of the growing season:

After the rain

Now the fun part: here's the same scene in late June just 3 weeks later:

Garden, late June

And 3 weeks after that:


If it had stopped there I would have been happy!  The banana is a bit problematic in a small garden as it takes up an awful lot of valuable real estate, and tends to shade out surrounding plants.  Last year I fertilized it only once, in early spring; this year I didn't fertilize it at all, hoping to keep it on the small side.  So much for that!  I often see recommendations to feed bananas heavily but as it turns out, fertilizer isn't nearly as important as establishment, good soil, and adequate water when it comes to growing big bananas.

One final note: the leaves of Musa basjoo are rather thin and shred easily in the wind.  As you can see in the first photo up above, late summer storms can make a mess of the leaves.  So if you plant one, try to site it where it won't be exposed to wind.

Garden, late August

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