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La Bananeraie Oceanique

Northern France is not traditionally the home of bananas, but where there's a will there's a way.....
Michel Grand Claudon, Hervaville, St Michel, France
Chamaerops No.31 Summer 1998

Right: Musa basjoo: Could be the tropics with a monsoon on the way!

I’m an amateur enthusiast of palms, cordylines, dracaena, cycas and others, but really my main passion is banana plants, so much so that I am growing them in my flat and pergola in St Michel in north-east France, and outside, without cover, in the south of Bordeaux.

It’s the Musa basjoo (Japanese Hardy banana) that is the best adapted to life outdoors, the equatorial varieties (from Sumatra for example) need to kept away from the cold.

Musa basjoo can be planted in the open air in most of south west UK just like in France, and in sheltered places in other countries. In cooler climates they should have protection over winter by way of a bed of straw; plastic sheets should be avoided because they tend to keep in the moisture and so cause decay.

Here is an example of growth in a sea climate at 25km from the ocean at Morceaux:

Apr ’93 height 35cm dia. 5cm
July ’93 height 110cm dia. 10cm
July ’94 height 180cm dia. 14cm
July ’95 height 360cm dia. 22cm

The plant reaches its height with leaves 3.5m long and 60cms wide and - surprise - a flower appears followed by a small crop of bananas. Only a 40 month cycle to wait until they are good to cook on the barbecue, laced with butter, sugar and Armagnac!

The winter of 96/97 being over I decided to brighten up my banana plantation in the spring by removing the least beautiful ones that appeared tired. I cut them in slices and placed them with sieved soil around the bases of the others to obtain compost. Three months later I noticed shoots appearing from these cuttings; I’ve put them in pots and they’re doing well.

While in active growth, Musa basjoo needs lots of water and a soil rich in potassium, for example N15 P5 K20 + Mg5. In addition during winter, some 1 year old decomposed stable manure will fertilize and warm the soil, however, use in moderation. This magnificent monocotyledon mixes well with other members of its family, and their growth in summer can be both dramatic and impressive. One leaf can grow in three days. It is easy to create a banana plantation in three years thanks to the many side shoots that appear from the second year onward. These can be planted elsewhere. One such side shoot can give 20 more within five years. I should emphasize that you should keep the leaves dry during the autumn and make sure that the plants are protected over the winter if local conditions dictate.


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