Tag Archives: Ensete ventricosum

Musa sikkimensis ‘Red Tiger’ (Bengal Tiger) and the Banana Story: Evolution and Cold Adaptation

Musa sikkimensis ‘Red Tiger’ taken three years ago…before this Tiger lost its stripes!

Musa sikkimensis ‘Red Tiger’ backlit. If I saw this plant in a nursery today, I’d be sorely tempted to buy it…again.

Another Jimi Blake plant.  I have history with this choice of Jimi’s…and the NW has a history with Bananas as well!

There’s an old hand colored postcard floating around the Washington Park office of bananas as part of an elaborate bedding out scheme around the ‘Chiming’ Fountain, near the Sacajawea statue.  If memory serves, it is Ensete ventricosum, which have a uniquely identifiable form.  Back in the day, Ensete v. seems to have been a thing.  It is a non-suckering species, unlike the spreading, mat forming Musa spp. and cultivars, and is commonly grown from seed.  It is interesting to me that they were available prior to the 1900’s and relatively common, probably up to 1929 and the stock market crash…at least for  the more horticulturally involved, as specimen in annual display beds.  Gardeners must have dug them out in the fall and hauled them to greenhouses to ‘protect’ them for use in the following year.  I did some research in the early ’00’s of catalogs and area nurseries to get an idea what was available in the 19 teens, and of a few Park’s planting plans of this period, influenced by the Olmsted’s and under the direction of Emanuel Mische…. Compared to typical planting plans of more recent years these were relatively adventurous, especially given that acquiring such plants was often a much bigger deal in the nineteens and twenties than it is today.  Back then if you weren’t wedded to a particular clone and you could find seed for it, exotic bananas were a possibility.  There was an excitement around the novel and exotic that had spilled over from Europe.  Local inventories also included a wide array of bulbs which could be more easily shipped than grown plants widening the range of choices.  They often times had choices that you would have to spend some time searching for even today.  With the economic collapse of ’29 it is no surprise that tastes and possibilities became much more conservative.  There were those who clung to the use of some of the old exotics, but you would have to look hard for them in public places and gardens. Botanical gardens became refuges for the forgotten and newly collected.   It took many years before enough of the gardening population reclaimed their sense of wonder and awe enough to create a new market for the plant’s of the world.  We experienced a similar contraction of the nursery industry in the Fall of 2008 when the real estate boom stalled and demand for plants collapsed causing the closure of many nurseries and a reduction in the selection available from local garden centers.  Locally gardeners have become increasingly interested in such plants and have continued to support the many small specialty nurseries that provide them Continue reading

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Wintering over your Red Abyssinian Banana (Ensete ventricosum ‘Maureli’)

My Ensete mid-summer, still a baby

My Ensete mid-summer, still a baby

Ensete ventricosum comes from the Ethiopian highlands, conditions considerably more mild than the zn 8a or 8b I experience here in inner SE Portland, so here’s what I do:

Fall weather here can be very volatile.  The stable, dry, monotonous even days of summer are shifting and the swings can occur quickly, so I suggest that you pay attention.  In general, I like to limit the time my plants spend in storage.  Jammed into the basement or crowded together under the porch overhang, the shed roof over the back deck or beneath the Pagoda isn’t very attractive.  Storage doesn’t improve a plant’s health either.  In fact, it is often a period of decline until once again they can be put out.  Many of my containerized plants shuffle back and forth, spending only periods of sustained freezing weather in the ‘warmest’ storage place, the basement.  Plants acclimate slowly so putting them in and out only works if they are protected for relatively brief periods…too long in a ‘warmer’ place and their metabolism is awakened, their ‘hardiness’ reduced, thus increasing the likelihood that their return to outside will be damaging.  With plants like the Ensete, the tropicals I grow, once I bring them in, they stay in until I determine to put them out. Continue reading