Date: 1 November 2003
Originally published in: The Guardian (UK)
Written by: Kim Wilde
Kim Wilde answers your gardening questions.
I have just ordered a golden hop from a nursery, but have no idea how to look after it. Any tips?
Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’ is a hardy, herbaceous climber with vine-like leaves and rough, twining stems. As well as the autumn flowers being used for ale, the tender young shoots of this plant, which emerge in spring, can be steamed and served with butter, just like asparagus. It dies down in winter, but makes extremely vigorous growth from early spring, up to 7m, making it a useful plant for summer screening. The golden leaves contrast sensationally with purple flowering plants such as Clematis ‘Jackmanii’ – both can be cut down hard in spring. Plant in rich, moisture-retentive soil, and mulch in late autumn and spring with well-rotted manure or garden compost. H.l.’Aureus’ needs full sun to colour well.
I planted a banana tree in April, and it’s thriving, growing babies from its base. Do I cut them off and replant? And how do I look after it in winter?
This tropical plant with dramatic, arching leaves has thrived in Cornish gardens for more than a century, so it’s no surprise that yours is doing well in west Wales just a few miles from the sea. The rootstock of Musa basjoo seems hardy in much of the UK, though I’d protect the stem in winter. Cut off the leaves after the first hard frosts have blackened them, then place a drainpipe over the stem and fill it with straw, placing a tile on top. Don’t worry: the babies growing from the base will come again next spring. From next May, after the frosts, choose new growth about 30cm tall, as this should have established a good enough root system, and sever the sucker from the main shoot with a spade or bread knife. Carefully brush the soil from around the roots, removing some older, lower leaves to reduce transpiration (loss of moisture), then re-plant in soil with plenty of organic matter. Banana plants do well in sun or shade, but they definitely need a sheltered position. They also benefit from high nitrogen feeds.