Bonchurch Inn owner Nino Besozzi, right, and his grandson Dean Brooman with the flowering and fruiting banana tree in the pub’s garden. Picture by Laura Holme.
GARDENING A BONCHURCH tree has been, well, going bananas — against all odds.
It not only looks exotic but, better even than that, it gives me an excuse to pop to my favourite pub and have the best pint, poured straight from the barrel.
Musa basjoo is one of those bananas I featured last week and the Bonchurch banana came to light as a result of a tip-off from Nigel Spiller who, luckily for him, lives near the pub.
And it has in common with the dwarf variety, correctly identified by so many of you last week, that it will only flower and fruit when its stem has reached a certain maturity.
At the Bonchurch Inn, it has done just that and has rewarded the owner, gardener who planted it and visitors to the pub’s courtyard garden with blooms and hands of fruit, which, sadly, are nice to look at but inedible.
Basjoo is frost-tolerant but to survive and flourish despite the snows and freezing winds of a couple of winters ago, is remarkable.
It was never designed to cope with that.
Basjoo was planted by Simon Newton, who runs Bonchurch Landscapes, about six years ago.
He has a taste of the exotic in his garden design, favouring palms and other tropicals and sub-tropicals.
The Bonchurch Inn is owned by Nino and Gillian Besozzi and the banana gives great delight to them and their family, including grandson Dean Brooman.
Dean said: "We haven’t given it any protection in the winters when it has just died back. Every spring there has been new growth.
"We have been rewarded with big flowers and three bunches of green bananas."
Musa basjoo, sikkimensis, Musella lasiocarpa and possibly itinerans are frost-hardy and can survive outdoors. Protection is definitely recommended, although apparently in the case of basjoo, not essential,.
It is not advisable to grow other Musa outside all year in the UK. They need to be cultured indoors or outside in the warmer months and brought indoors in winter.
All Musa produce new growth readily between April and September and require regular watering to attain maximum growth.
The exception is Musella lasiocarpa, which should, ideally, have its compost left to dry out between waterings for best results.
Musa should be planted in full sun for maximum growth or part shade.
All bananas have one single stem from which the new leaves emerge.
A handy, if apparently brutal, technique to remember, is that if at any time the banana plant gets too large, simply cut the stem to the required height and wait for the new leaves to emerge.
Despite appearances, they will.
A very useful website with useful ideas for culture and descriptions of the various banana varieties and companion plants can be found at www.easytropicals.com.