Sunday 20 January 2013

Winter: protection, experiments and snow

Ok after dribs and drabs of snow we now have proper crunchy underfoot snow. There isn’t quite enough to make a snowman yet but I’m hoping for more!

The cold weather has led to just staying home which is actually really nice...we have sorted and cleaned cupboards, made plans for housey things and I’m about to sort out my seeds which live in an ever growing box in my fridge and order more. Occasionally I venture to the garden and hide in the summer house under a few blankets with the biggest and hottest cup of tea I can find surveying the scene and planning for next year.

Wandering the garden taking the ubiquitous snow photos I also thought it would be good to show how I’m taking the garden through the winter. I am nowhere near an expert on this and if you look at the HTUK forum there are lots of people who fleece everything and have houses that are so full of tender plants that you can hardly move. I’m also really impressed with people who build temporary structures around tender things and heat them with heating pipes or discount rope lights!

 Musa basjoo: all of my clumps have been wrapped for a month or so...I tend to chop off the leaves, tie them to the top then put dry twigs next to the stems to keep wet off them, then pile up compost bags full of autumn leaves around them and then wrap the lot in fleece, I then cap the top with a compost bag/plastic to try and keep the rain off a bit
You can see the wrapped banana behind the pond with its black plastic cap

Two others wrapped up behind a rather elegant cump of Iris confusa
Musa lasiocarpa, Musa sikkimensis and some Cannas: These have been dug up and are now living in my covered sideway where they get the heat of the house, and a dry. This year I am trying an experiment where I haven’t immediately taken off all their leaves and am waiting until they are dead before I fleece them.....I am surprised they still have leaves, but wonder if this may be a bit of a mistake waiting to happen. I must admit to not being entirely convinced by fleece as I think it tends to trap moisture in and also without the airflow they are more at risk from fungus

Ensetes and Cannas:  The Ensete were all dug up, leaves and roots cut off (so they looked like  giant leeks) and then stored upside down in my metre cupboard (it’s kind of outside, but covered and warm).  They were upside down to dry off, but are now upright.....this worked last year but it’s an experiment with the smaller ones which may need an occasional prayer to aid survival as they are a bit small.  Also in the cupboard are most of my cannas which were just dug up and put into pots/old compost bags in a way where they can dry out. They seem to be a bit too warm as they are all starting to grow!

Giant Echiums: these have died every year when left out, apart from 2006/7 when they flowered and were an immense beauty. Last year I grew them as much for the foliage as they are a fabulous mound of giant leaves, however flowering would be nice.  Last year I overwintered one in a pot, however it only grew to about 5ft....This year I have them strategically all around the garden to try and find the more sheltered places however nearly all are looking very sad today L however I’m experimenting with one which has a loose layer of fleece to keep the worst of the weather off and hopefully keep the crown dryish...we shall see!
This masterpiece of wrapping has a banana at the back and Echium at the front!
Salvia cuttings, Cyathea, Echium seedlings, Kangeroo apple: These are all in the unheated greenhouse which only has a layer of bubble wrap to help it. I really hope the Cyathea survives as I love it! I have a feeling I killed it last year from it drying out as it is still using a lot of water...

So that’s what I do, but this is still learning and I will keep you posted. So enjoy pictures of the garden in the snow...

The bees are all wrapped up, however can get very confused by the snow and can fly out upside down (as the ground is brighter they think it is the sun)

I rather wish I has wrapped up this Washingtonia as the leaves are getting very battered



  1. In the snow everything looks lovely. Good luck with keeping everything through the winter. Will be interested in the Cannas. I never think to pull mine each winter and save them. They do well in the summer here and I just plant new ones each spring. However, I do have a basement I could put them in. Do you just leave them dry all winter and in the dark? Then plant them when last chance of frost is gone? Later Liz.

  2. It's all looking very pretty with the snow, and that summer house of yours is coming in handy as a place for shelter and viewing to survey the garden and make plans for the spring! I like your method of keeping the ensetes upside down for awhile to drain excess fluid. As for the plants on the side passage, I wonder if you'll manage to get them to keep most of their leaves and not die off? Where they are now is very sheltered so its possible, cross fingers and toes!

  3. Liz give the Cannas a try as it is easy if you keep them dry! they will also be bigger better plants next year

    Sideway plans are tricky as I think they will be leafless now! I have partially fleeced them but 'horse' and 'bolted' comes to mind!

  4. I would really love to grow echium, so will be interested to see if you successfully over wintered them.
    I gave up wrapping up my ensetes a few years ago, mainly because I hated the way the straw got everywhere. They are root hardy so just grow from there.
    When all the snow fell last week, I had to go round and shake all the snow off the Trachy and bamboo's etc.

  5. I hope I overwinter an echium too! however last year they were great to grow for just their foliagle alone...nect year I think I will also try and grow a couple in pots...however fingers crossed about the fleece...peeking underneath it looks ok as I think it is the wet that causes the problems, the others are certainly looking a bit worse for wear, but alive...... I also know what you mean about the bananas...I think I would be more incllined to see how they did but its opening for NGS makes me super cautious!