Overwinter your ‘hardy’ giant exotics - the tender giant trio

Published on September 13th 2018
These big softies give our gardens structure throughout the summer, but the first chill of autumn curls their toes and they look for the nearest greenhouse.

Here’s how to help overwinter your ‘hardy’ giant exotics

Japanese banana (Musa basjoo)
I have a friend who, although ‘not a gardener’ (his words), babies his plant in the colder months. The crown can stand heavy frost under a thick mulch of leaves, with added straw in colder areas.
To keep the ‘trunk’ alive, wrap in fleece and hessian. Bubble-wrap is also fine, but be aware it can ‘sweat’. My friend wraps his plant in chicken wire stuffed with straw for extra protection and survived the -15°C cold snap in March unscathed.
Giant rhubarb (Gunnera manicata)
The largest herbaceous perennial, Giant rhubarb, is not very tender, but benefits from having its old (frost-damaged) leaves folded back over the crown, which shields it from the worst of the winter weather. A thick mulch will help in colder areas.
Giant rhubarb (Gunnera manicata)
Tree fern (Dicksonia antarctica)
A prehistoric relic, the Tree Fern is a big investment. Smaller plants need moving under cover, as tree ferns grow hardier with age. Trunks may not need top-to-toe wrapping unless it’s very cold but follow as with the banana. The delicate part of the fern is the growing tip, so ensure that you stuff with straw and bind with fleece. I’ve even heard of loft insulation being used for protection, which is understandable given the tree fern’s value.
Once they’re all tucked up and cosy you needn’t worry about them again until mid-late spring.
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