14 August 2012

taste of the tropics: abyssinian banana

This year was my first attempt at growing a tropical specimen that I will have to overwinter inside.  I bought it at about 6 inches tall in April or May, and it was fairly slow to start.  With the heat we've been having lately, however, there seems to be a new leaf unfurling each day.

It's not cold-hardy unlike its cousin the Japanese Banana Tree 'Musa basjoo', but I find the leaf colour variations much more intriguing, and maybe worth the extra effort in digging it up and hauling it inside at first frost.  I've read that some people only dig them up the first year because they grow so vigorously in the second and third years that they become too large to store.  If that's the case, then so be it, because at only $10 for a starter plant I'm willing to give it a try!  The leaves of the Red Abyssinian Banana Tree 'Ensete ventricosum' are deep burgundy and olive green, and can reach up to 6' long on a 20' trunk.  I don't think I'll have to worry about mine ever getting that big in this zone but I'm hoping it will get up to about 6 feet by next summer.

I have it currently next to the birdbath, surrounded by some Pheasant's Tail grasses, a Calla lily, and a Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight'.  I'm going to throw in some dwarf Canna lilies next spring to compliment this lush combination.  I know there are plenty of other cold-hardy options that would thrive in this space and even provide some winter interest, but growing tender plants provides a feeling of accomplishment because they need a lot more TLC.  Maybe I will change my mind next year after carting a cumbersome pot out of the crawlspace but as of now I am enjoying the fruits of my labor!

Below, one of my inspiration photos from you guessed it-- the much revered 'Pinterest'.

Photo by Rob Cardillo at the Chanticleer Gardens in Philadelphia.

Also, totally unrelated, but the baby owl stopped by for a visit again just now.  It was holding its wings in a strange position but it seemed to be okay.  You can see the ear tufts already have almost fully developed.

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