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Going bananas

 

Kathy
Henderson
Columnist

  For some reason, probably the rain, my garden is full of thriving and gorgeous banana (Musa) trees. I love their bold foliage and great form and toughness in most environmental situations that we incur.

  Botanically, the banana tree, is a large herb, with a very juicy stem made up of leaf/petiole layers arising from a rhizome. Suckers arise from the original plant forming a clump then the oldest sucker replaces the main plant when it fruits and dies, and this process continues indefinitely.

  A few years ago I had the beginning of a banana grove in front of my back porch. For several years it had been putting on new sprouts and they grew about 25 feet each year. I think I remember counting seven trunks during that last season. Then came winter and some fairly severe drops in temperature that lasted several days. I must not have covered the stumps sufficiently, or the ground was too wet, because not one sprout emerged when spring arrived.

  Across the yard, however, a clump of dwarf banana plants arose with a vengeance.

A Chinese Yellow Banana Plant.     Special photo

I was excited that they survived and even had a nice bloom on one of the plants. The yellow blossom resembled a lotus flower. The leaves are a light gray/green and large. Supposedly this plant may reach 5-6 feet in height, but for now, it is only about 4 feet and has quite a number of stalks. It is identified as a Chinese Yellow Banana Plant.

Musa Basjoo Northern Yellow Banana plant.
                                              Special photo

  Nearby is a taller Banana Plant. It had several stalks to emerge this year. Actually leaves emerged from stalks that were left tall through the winter. However, something very strange happened in late March. Before the leaves emerged, out of one trunk came a large bud that opened into a very large flower. This yellow flower was unlike the one on the Chinese plant; I think this is Musa Basjoo Northern Yellow Banana. It is reportedly the most cold hardy one and I agree. I do not think the tiny bananas are growing fast enough to ripen before winter, but they are fun to see. Besides, this summer has not been sunny or hot enough for bananas.

An example of an Abyssinian Red Ensete Banana plant.                                       Special photo

  I was told to bring my Abyssinian Red Ensete Banana plants inside for the winter, so I did, but I left one outside in the ground. It is the most beautiful of all. Oh, my goodness, I want a grove of these.  A good beach chair and a drink containing a tiny umbrella would make one think of an island vacation. It is quite a show as a specimen, in a bed of annuals or as a group.

  Another one that I have is the Jamaican or Cuban Red Dwarf Banana Tree which has green leaves with a reddish midrib and little red bananas. What fun! And what a show in the garden or patio area.

Jamaican or Cuban Red Dwarf Banana Tree (note the little red bananas).        Special photo

  There are others that I must try, so back to internet nurseries that send them to you in a 4-inch pot.

 

 

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