Tag Archives: Hardy Musa species

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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Musa basjoo to Musa sikkimensis to Musa s. ‘Red Tiger’: Garden Updates, July 1, ’15

Musa sikkimense with soft back light

Musa sikkimense with soft back light. That’s Canna ‘Bengal Tiger’ with its pin-stripping in the background and Bowle’s Golden Carex low to the right

I suppose there are gardeners out there who are completely satisfied with their gardens and have no plans for changes, expansions or wholesale overhaul, but not me.  Musa basjoo was my first Banana plant.  I grew it for several years.  It is still widely grown in our region.  There’s nothing wrong with it, but I removed mine and replaced it with Musa sikkimensis, the plant pictured above.  In my opinion the foliage, and the way it is carried on the plant, is superior to M. basjoo.  First, is the more vertical angle that it holds its leaves.  This shows off the underside of the leaves and lets morning or afternoon sun light illuminate the leaves causing them to ‘glow’.  The red mid-rib of the leaves really stand out!  In M. basjoo, this doesn’t happen because they’re held in a nearly flat position.  M. basjoo also lacks the red mid-rib.  Next, and this is my opinion from having watched these plants over a period of years, is that M. sikkimensis allows its leaves to ‘flutter in a breeze lettting it ‘spill’ more wind preventing some of the shredding that can afflict Bananas on windy sites, something like the larger Ensete does.  So, why am I preparing to remove it now and swap it out? Continue reading