When Picking Out a Mother’s Day Plant – This Is The Only Thing You Need to Know

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Many people will be stopping into their favorite nurseries either tonight on their drive home from work, tomorrow, or perhaps on the morning of Mother’s Day on Sunday in search of the perfect gift for Mom.

In fact, Sunday may be the busiest day here in Connecticut because the temperatures are predicted to be in the high 70’s.  We may even reach 80 degrees.  A great day to shop for Mom, or with Mom at a garden center.

I remember my early days working at The Garden Barn Nursery in Vernon, Connecticut on Mother’s Day.  It was just incredible how many people came in to get plants for their mothers.  Especially popular is their big full huge hanging baskets of annuals.

And believe me, you Moms out there, your children take their time selecting just the right one for you.  All heads are up looking them over.  Shoppers will carefully look all around the plant too.

Sometimes they will ask the nursery staff to take one down from the rafters so they can inspect it better, and often they ask to put it back up so they can look over another hanger they spotted nearby.

I took down and put up so many hanging baskets during a Mother’s Day weekend one year, I had to go see a chiropractor the following week because I strained my neck.

The funny part is, the customer always goes back to the original one they spotted to take it home for Mom.

The hanging baskets will look just magnificent inside the greenhouses right now. I know from prior experience of working in nurseries, and because I just got one for myself the other day when I went to Meadow View Farms in Southwick, Massachusettes when I was in the area earlier this week.  It is a bit of a drive, but I figured, why not stop in.

Mothers Day Shopping_0001

It is a Fuschia with purple and pink flowers.  I cannot resist getting one of these every year – mother, or not!  The hummingbirds love them and so do I.  And when I spotted a full one flush with dangling blooms, I had to – just had to – put it on my cart and take it home for me.

Mothers Day Shopping_0005

There are many things you want to consider as you look up to the top of the greenhouse to select a hanging basket for your Mom, but probably the only thing you really need to know is Mom’s favorite color.

I can not imagine any mother not being thoroughly pleased with a full hanging basket from their child on Mother’s Day – no matter what type of plants it contains – but when it is delivered in her favorite color, this puts the icing on the cake.  Trust me.

Wagon Load at Meadow View Farms

Wagon Load at Meadow View Farms

Additionally, of course, you want to look the plant over a bit to make sure it has good form and no bugs are stuck to the undersides of the leaves, but to be honest, I don’t think you will typically find this scenario this early in the season – especially this year due to our cool temperatures.  Most of the plants have been taken care of inside the greenhouse and they are freshly awaiting you.

We are having such a cool spring, almost all of the annual hanging baskets will be housed in the greenhouses where they have been kept warm, protected from the outdoor elements, and tended to by the nursery staff.  They will probably move some out now with the weather being fine over the weekend.

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Another thing you have to remember is to check the hanger for plant tags if you don’t know what the plant are – after all, Mom will want to know – and you do want to impress her, don’t you?

I have to give kudos to Meadow View Farms because when I checked out with my hanging basket of gorgeous Fuschia plants, they handed me and every customer in line a pamphlet with good instructions on care, including a friendly warning about how the early spring days are still a bit cool to put out “some type of plants.”

Plants such as tropicals, annuals, and some vegetables require warmer temperatures and will get damaged by frost – but most perennials are just fine.  Perhaps why I put one of these in my cart too – a pretty purple blooming Pulsatilla vulgaris.  This perennial was irresistible in bloom.

A perennial Pulsatilla vulgaris 'Blue Velvet' at the nursery (does not need to be covered)

A perennial Pulsatilla vulgaris ‘Blue Velvet’ at the nursery (does not need to be covered)

I especially liked this tip on their instructions:

“A good rule of thumb is to cover plants by 8 pm the night before a forecasted frost and uncover them by 8 am the next morning.”

This might be too cumbersome to do with hanging baskets however, so my suggestion is you just take it in for the evening and put it back outside the next morning.  Tell Mom the same.

When you spot the right one for your Mom this Mother’s Day, don’t hesitate to grab it and remember, pick her favorite color.  If you don’t know what it is, I suggest you call Dad.

Written by Cathy Testa

http://www.ContainerCrazyCT.com
http://www.cathytesta.com
860-977-9473

Display at Meadow View Farms - Cute! Tea Thyme.

Display at Meadow View Farms – Cute! Tea Thyme.

 

 

 

Ensete ventricosum ‘Maurelii’ – A Big Red Banana Plant Revived Again!

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Red banana plants (Ensete ventricosum, also called Abyssinian banana) are herbaceous perennials from the Musaceae family hardy to zones 10 to 11.  They can reach heights of 8 to 10 feet, perhaps even 12 in the best of situations, and take full sun with medium moisture.

When sun and good moisture are provided, it will give you a show to remember, especially if you are not from the tropics, as most would not expect such a large tropical specimen to be growing in your Connecticut yard.  But this is very doable if you store the plant appropriately over the winter, and follow the steps below to revive it to be planted again each year.

For the third year now, I have taken my red banana plant (which is a cultivar, ‘Maurelii’) out of storage around this time of year to revive it and bring it back to life so I can enjoy it once more in my landscape or in a big container garden.  Red banana plants love organic rich soils, so the large cement planter it grew in last year at my home during the summer is probably where it will return this season.

As I mentioned, in my blog post last fall about how to overwinter (store) a red banana plant, I took photos of the plant repeatedly last season.  I also had people stand in front of it when I’d walk them around to my backyard for them to see my big red banana plant.

Parents and Relatives

Here’s a photo of my parents (on the left) and my Aunt and Uncle on the right from last summer.  My mother is a twin, as you will notice.  It’s so cute to see them get together and my Uncle joked with me about how I built a foundation for my plants – he was correct!  They were having a fun day and it was a treat to have them stop by.

Mom/Dad, Aunt/Uncle 2013

Mom/Dad, Aunt/Uncle 2013

Another time, when babysitting my nephew, I tortured him a bit by taking several photos of him in his stroller before we went for a walk.  Here he is waving at me.  Too cute!  Someday he’ll look back at this photo and say his Aunt was nuts about plants.

Nephew waving 2013

Nephew waving 2013

Red banana plants like some shade so the spot where this planter is located is perfect. It gets the morning sun on the east side, which my nephew is facing in this above photo, and later, it gets shade in the afternoon as the sun moves over head to the west.  I also intentionally located it by our pool and below our deck, knowing the leaves would rise to the top of the deck railing where it could be seen as it grew to its towering heights. You can see I have many elephant ears and perennials planted around it.  On hot days, as I watered plants on my deck, it was easy to have the hose over the top to give this planter regular drinks of water too.

Photos taken from above summer 2013

Photos taken from above summer 2013

This plant likes good consistent moisture, and in my large cement planter this was never a problem because it is so large, it holds the moisture well.  When you plant red banana plants into pots, I recommend you go as large as possible too.  Okay – maybe not as large as my cement planter is possible for some folks, but remember the plant gets big, so you want a good sized pot, not only to give it a nice soil environment, but because a large pot will hold down a large plant well in the winds and will require less watering because it won’t dry out as fast as smaller pots.  See my Cathy T “5 Must Do’s for Container Gardening” for more information about how to succeed with container gardening.

Will It Get Bananas?

Many people will ask if my red banana plant will get bananas, and the answer is no, probably not.  Because I cut it down every season in the fall after it gets hit by a frost to store the root base, it may never produce a flower, but there are other types of dwarf banana plants you can grow that will get fruit, one being Dwarf Cavendish.  In fact, I gave one of those to my sister in law one year and she kept it in her sun room all winter. The following summer, it produced a bloom and had tiny bananas which her family was afraid to eat because they never experienced that before.  It was a new experience for them to see a tropical plant produce fruit in their home.

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At the end of the season, I took a photo from the other side of the deck.  You can see how the leaves reached the railings.  I also found the spot where it was placed to be a nice private place to sit and have a cocktail in the summer.  But eventually it was time for it go to.

Photo on Right, Towards end of Season

Photo on Right, Towards end of Season

This is what the root base looked like after I took the plant down.  You can see the overwintering preparation steps on my blog post from the winter.  Finally, spring has circled back around. So recently, I went down to my basement to check on the box.

Sure enough, the plant sensed the temperatures changes, and I could see white growth from the top through the plastic taping I used to close the top.

Root base just before packing last fall

Root base just before packing last fall

Opening Box Spring 2014

Opening Box Spring 2014

Coming Out of Storage

It may look like something out of a horror movie when you look at this image above of the plant as it is reawakening in the early spring, but believe me it won’t be long before it is returned to its beautiful state.  My first step is always to check to see if it looks healthy, free of any little insects, and if starting to grow – which is was in the box.  I opened up the box and positioned the root base to be standing upright.

Leaves Rising 2014

Leaves Rising 2014

As you can see, the leaves began to rise.  The bases of the leaves overlap like celery. And while it may look tattered, not to worry, it will perk up and look better in no time. I keep mine like this for a week or so and give it a tad bit of water, but not too much.  I don’t want rot to set in now that I have it alive and revived again.

Temporary Pot

Temporary Pot

A Temporary Pot

On Wednesday, May 7th, of this week, I decided to pot it into a temporary pot using fresh quality potting mix specifically for container gardening.  It happened to be a beautiful sunny day so my juices got going to get this baby into a better environment, and I watered it lightly again.  The next day, I carried it upstairs to a room so it could get warmer conditions and some soft light.  It will remain there until Memorial Day weekend when all chances of frost have past.

New Pot

New Pot

Cleaning It Up

And one other note, there were some outer sections which had some mold or fungus on it, where you can see the whitish area in these following photos.  I took a sharp clean kitchen knife and sliced it off very carefully.  If you do this, be careful to not cut the layer below the piece you are removing.  This step was taken to reduce any chance of the fungus to spread.  And any black parts were cut away also.

Slicing of bad sections

Slicing of bad sections

It is hard to believe this once towering plant at 9 or so feet last year with 6 foot long leaves is now a stump that will regrow to the same size again in no time.  It will sit in my spare room until ready to head outdoors, and as noted above, after all chances of the late spring frost has passed.  I don’t risk putting this plant out too early after all the effort to store and reawaken it.  And by the way, remember any plants you move outside to move into a shady location first so the leaves won’t burn when it is exposed to sun for the first time.  Just like our skin, it can get hurt and you will see white damage on the leaves when exposed to sun too quickly.

In the Landscape

If you want to see what this red banana plant looks like in a landscape bed, check out this photo provided to me from a Master Gardener friend, Serena.  She does garden maintenance, and was excited about her red banana plants last year too.  We both were very happy to see the lush growth of our plantings.  She lives in Connecticut also.

Serena's Red Banana in her CT Garden

Serena’s Red Banana Plants in her CT Garden 2013

By the way, Ensete ventricosum are referred to as “look-alike” banana plants because they are similar to the Musa genus but not part of the Musa genus.  Does this really matter?  Heck no!  It’s a red banana plant to me!  And it will go back outside in three weeks.

Written by Cathy Testa
http://www.cathytesta.com
http://www.ContainerCrazyCT.com
860-977-9473

P.S.  A limited supply of these plants will be available at Cathy T’s upcoming class, the “Big Container Garden Party (Class)” on Saturday, May 24th.

Happy Mother’s Day Weekend Everyone!