The Gardens of Chiconia 35: I’m a lumberjack…

… and I’m OK. Very OK. Gleeful, in fact.

Baby Ducasse banana, November 2012

Today, I went round to the Dowager’s (aka the first Gardens of Chiconia, where I discovered what tropical gardening is all about) to give her a hand. The little Ducasse banana tree I planted 18 months ago has flowered, fruited and multiplied, to the tune of 6 thick trunks instead of one. We needed to deal with an excess of trunkage and leafage, and remove the one which had already fruited to make space for a new one to come forward. It’s hot, heavy, soggy and occasionally stinky work – rotting banana stem is pretty whiffy. Trunks as thick as a man’s leg are actually mostly water, held together with fibrous tissue – think of an incredibly stringy monster cucumber and you get an idea of how much water bananas take up. On the upside, they’re really, really easy to cut down.

Once we’d dealt with the three trunks, we left them on the ground to drain and return the water to the soil. Everything will dry out and get lighter and easier to handle. Some can be mulched, the rest will have to go to the green waste area at the dump. A pity to lose all that biomass, but in that tiny garden, there’s no alternative.

An hour later, hot and smeared with mushy banana pulp, we’d got the job done. I went round snipping, clipping, slicing and digging, helping myself to cuttings, slips, corms and leaves. The whole garden has grown so much that my depredations didn’t show at all. I have three softwood cuttings from the angel trumpet, a root from the variegated ginger and another from the heliconia, a rooted stem from the calathea zebrina, and lots of leaves and rooted babies from the succulent collection. But the prize was a perfect sucker from the banana – about 40cm high, with the narrow spear-shaped leaves you need instead of big flappy rounded ones.  This kind of sucker grows faster and produces fruit more quickly than the other, and there was just one, so I snaffled it!  It was right at the back, next to the fence, so very hard to slice off the parent trunk, and there isn’t a lot of root, but my fingers are crossed.

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Ducasse sugar bananas, from a tree I planted myself. Yum!

To top that all off, I was given two hands of bananas from the tree, one very ripe, one still slightly green. The thin-skinned, chubby little Ducasse sugar bananas are just fabulous, sweet, aromatic and fresh, with zingy high notes that remind me of strawberry. The Dowager has the whole stem hanging on a hook in the patio, with a cover that pulls down overnight to keep off the possums and flying foxes. No shop bought banana will ever taste so good or be so fresh. If the cutting takes, give me another 18 months, and I hope to be picking my own bananas!

So, major score all round. Excuse me, I’m off to pig out on the tastiest bananas I’ve ever eaten…

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15 thoughts on “The Gardens of Chiconia 35: I’m a lumberjack…

  1. claire93 says:

    our bananas are flown in from French overseas territories – no way could we grow them here

    • katechiconi says:

      There are ornamental varieties that can put up with a little frost, but they won’t fruit. One of the nicest is the red Abyssinian banana. Grow it against a warm wall and protect it in winter, and you’ll get a pretty nice tree. I managed it in London.

  2. I loved those little bananas, and miss decent tropical fruit here in the Northern hemisphere. Good luck with all the baby trees.

  3. Grannymar says:

    Holiday booked for eighteen months time, just when the bananas are ready! 😉

  4. EllaDee says:

    The G.O. was giving banana cultivation lessons to his son the other day, and I learned that too about the plant being mostly water and the suckers. Like eggs, home grown bananas are so much better than supermarket. Are the sugar bananas good for banana bread/cake as well?

    • katechiconi says:

      Not bad, but not as good as Cavendish, because they don’t go black and mushy. You can mash them, but they stay pale. I am SO thrilled at the flavour, which is intense and produced rude moaning noises….

  5. tialys says:

    O.K. – Now I have banana envy too 😦

    • katechiconi says:

      God help me if we ever do get a fruiting tree. These little baby bananas are disappearing at speed…
      I’ll return the favour and suffer cool temperate fruit & veg envy. No fresh baby peas, no raspberries, no snowdrops or primroses, no cherries or peaches…

  6. This has convinced me that every new house built in cold climates should have a greenhouse attached. Yeah, I’ve got banana envy too.

  7. katechiconi says:

    A large greenhouse on the sunny side of a northern hemisphere house has so many potential uses apart from growing exotic fruit, so I completely agree with you… I have a shade area where the more tender plants live, and through which a breeze blows into the back of the house, being cooled on its way through the planting. A different sort of greenhouse!

  8. Carole says:

    Yum. After reading your post, I could just fancy a bowl of bananas and custard 😛

    • katechiconi says:

      Or cream, or yoghurt, or cereal, banana bread, banana muffins, banana fritters, barbecued bananas…. Oh, believe me, I’m dreaming of what I can do once I have my own unlimited supply!

  9. […] a good way, I hasten to add. Let me explain. After my lumberjacking activities earlier this week, the Dowager was left with a substantial pile of banana tree debris. Bit by bit, […]

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