Bert's Back Yard
Bert's Back Yard Summer 2003
Welcome to the first instalment of Bert's Back Yard, now this is actually about Bert's Back Yard, and what is growing there, or perhaps what I am trying to grow there. I am sure that there are many gardeners out there whom like to try and grow something a little out of the norm. As many of you are aware, especially those of you with a gauge in the car that displays the outside temperature, the difference in temperature between Shotley Gate and Ipswich can be as much as 5 degrees C. Which means while they might be experiencing a frost in Ipswich, we in Shotley in comparison are having a heat-wave!
So to start with one plant that I have grown quite successfully for a number of years, and in fact so have others by the look of it, is Cordyline australis, this plant is becoming increasingly popular in Shotley Gate and can survive most winters with no protection at all. Less hardy species of this plant which I've found survive O.K. are C.a. 'Atropurpurea', C.a. 'variegatum' and C.a. 'Coffee and Cream'. Another plant which seems to becoming more popular here and can be spotted in a few gardens mine included, is the Canary Island Date Palm, Phoenix canariensus. A palm that I grow and is reputed to be one of the hardiest is the Chusan palm, Trachycarpus fortunei, however there does not seem much evidence of other people growing it, perhaps this is because like me, people are growing it in their back gardens to give it more protection from the wind. Other palms that I am now trying outside since the summer of 2003 are the European fan palm, Chamaerops humilis, and the Cotton and Skyduster palms, Washingtonia filifera and W. robusta respectively. All three certainly seem to be O.K. so far. Another group of plants, that many, whom strive to give their gardens the 'tropical look' will tell you are indispensable, are the bananas. One I am currently growing, and is possibly the best known hardy banana is the Japanese banana, Musa basjoo, another very similar one I have is the Hooker's banana, Musa sikimensis also sometimes know as Musa hookeri. Both at the moment (January 2004) are still in leaf, along with Musella lasiocarpa which is sometimes reputed to be even hardier than M. basjoo. All three of these bananas are root hardy, however most of the information that I've found on them, say to protect the stems from frost as soon as the leaves are lost to frost damage, generally thought to be in November. But here I am in Shotley Gate still waiting for the leaves to go in January! Time will no doubt tell.
One other plant closely related to the banana, in fact it also belongs in the Musa genera, is the Bird Of Paradise plant, Strelitzia regina, I planted out a couple of seedlings of them in the summer, both of which are still looking fine. Other plants that I've planted out and still look O.K. include the Birds Nest Fern, Asplenium nidus, and The Cast Iron Plant, Aspidistra elatior. Three others I am trying from the Tillandsia family include T. brachycaulos, T. juncea and T. ionatha, all of which still survive. I also planted out some un-named plants of the Calathea species, just to add some interest to the summer plantings, out of five species planted one has been cut back to ground level, the other four have all suffered some frost damage, but still retain some leaves. It will be interesting to see how they progress come the spring.
So ends the first article on Bert's Back Yard. I will update this as the seasons go by. Hopefully will also add some pictures as and when I find the time. No doubt I will loose a few of the above before winters end, but to look on the bright side, that will give me space to try something else. So what is lurking in your back yard? I would be interested to hear from anybody whom has grown anything, shall we say different in their back yard. Bert.
Spring 2004 Summer 2004
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