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Winter protection

With winter approaching it's time to think about how, if and when to protect your more tender plants. To give specific advice on this subject is very difficult as so much depends on the plant, the planting environment, the soil, and the winter.

Most gardeners who protect plants year on year develop there own methods that work for them, there really is no rule book. But saying that, below are a few thoughts focused on the plants that we stock at the nursery.

Timing/duration - Plants do not like to be wrapped up, so only do so in the coldest spells of winter. Plants will rot due to lack of air flow if wrapped unnecessarily in warm autumn weather as well as in warm early spring weather.

Material - Apart from the ability to effectively insulate the other key consideration for wrapping material is air flow, wrapping plants in bubble wrap or plastic is not a good idea unless air flow can be allowed for. Hessian or horticultural fleece or straw are much better at insulating and allowing air to flow.

Bulbs/Tubers/Rhizomes - Plants such as gingers and cannas do not want to sit through winter in very wet soil if you think this is the case then they are best lifted and stored. Plants left in the soil will benefit from a generous layer of mulch to insulate them. A good practice when gingers/cannas are cut down is to lay the foliage on the clump to give insulation.

Red Banana (Ensete) - do need protection, at the nursery we cut them down and wrap them in horticultural fleece and then put a bin over the top of them with the intention of keeping them as dry as possible. Alternatively if they can be moved undercover/greenhouse/indoors all the better.

Banana (Musa) - Can be left unprotected it will probably, although not definitely die back to the ground but in sheltered positions or in a reasonably mild winter they can keep their leaves. To protect, cut the leaves back and wrap the trunk(s) in horticultural fleece.

Palms - All our palms are hardy here in the South, probably the only palm to consider protecting would be very young date palms this can be done by tying the fronds together and wrapping with fleece.

Tree ferns - We don't usually protect ours but it's certainly a consideration through spells of very cold weather. The key part here is to protect the crown. This can be done by packing the top with fallen leaves and securing them in place or by packing with a ball of horticultural fleece.

Potted plants - In general the more tender potted plants benefit from being moved to a sheltered spot close to the house, this makes a surprising difference in terms of temperature. Of course if you have a greenhouse this will work too. Check also that your pots are draining properly.


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