In 2004, a renovation to my house provided long awaited direct access to the backyard. I wanted a space for outdoor living/dining and a patio seemed like the natural choice based on the lay of the land. Before the patio was even completed I was already envisioning all the cool plants I could grow in the new surrounding garden beds. The main patio bed is about twelve feet deep and backed by a south facing wall of the garage. I suspected it would be a micro climate where I could get away with growing plants borderline for my hardiness zone. At the top of my list was Musa basjoo, the hardy banana.
In the spring of 2005 I ordered one from Fairweather Gardens,
one of my favorite mail order nurseries. When it arrived in April it was dormant in a gallon container. I planted it immediately and before long little banana leaves started to sprout.
|Musa basjoo in September 2005|
Musa basjoo is right up my plant collecting alley. Besides being a huge conversation piece, no other
hardy semi-hardy plant provides such bold tropical foliage for northern gardens. And except for regular water no special care is required. By the end of the first summer I felt like I was in my own little tropical paradise. But...I had to get it through the winter because then, and only then would I be able to stake my claim in the land of zonal denial.
After a frost took out the foliage, I cut the whole plant back to about a foot, surrounded it with a wire cage filled with shredded leaves and crossed my fingers. The spring of 2006 was warmer than the elusive "normal" so often referred to by those who attempt to predict weather in New England. In April I noticed what I thought was the shredded leaves settling in the cage but quickly realized the plant was growing from the cuts I made the previous fall. Nothing above ground had died back. Incredible!
|By September 2007 it was starting to form a grove|
By the summer of 2008 I kept expecting to see Jimmy Buffett serving margaritas on my patio. Since I wasn't looking to join the Chiquita family and I really wanted to grow other plants in this garden, I decided to do away with the winter protection program. Now growth starts later and from ground level
|September 2011-Musa basjoo at a size much more in scale with the rest of the garden but still a large and dramatic foliage focal point.|
On the two occasions when my garden has been open to the public, Musa basjoo was the
most asked about plant. It was fun to watch people try to peek at the base without being to obvious. Then the inevitable question, "Do you bring that in for the winter?" followed by the look of surprise at my answer. Yes siree, Musa basjoo
is a hardy plant for me! And if you garden in zone six (and possibly the warmer side of five) it will probably be hardy for you too.
If you think you might want to give Musa basjoo a shot, I recommend spring planting and winter protection for at least the first year. A protected site and good soil amended with compost will help ensure success. For a couple of years I've been toying with the idea of trying to grow it in another, less protected garden area just to see what happens I just haven't found the right spot.