Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Sunday Afternoon Under the Banana Trees

Towards the end of March, when the winter season has overstayed its welcome, we gardeners here in the northern part of the world, start to feel a desperate need for even a little green. 

The final days of winter can be endlessly grey and the garden seems only to offer up the following adjectives: drab and brown.

And so it was, one Sunday a few weeks ago, my husband and I went in search of 
a little bit of spring color.

Now who would have thought, that on our little Sunday adventure, we might discover
 banana trees growing in the heart downtown Toronto?

But there they were, under the protective dome of a glass conservatory called Allan Gardens!

As I found myself gazing up at big bunches of green bananas, I found myself thinking,"I have lived in the greater Toronto area for over 25 years, how is it I have never been here before?" 

It didn't even cost anything to get in for pete's sake! 

At Christmas time, Allan Gardens has a huge display of poinsettias and amaryllis. 
In March and April, the conservatory is filled with spring bulbs.

Even here, a gardeners work is never done!

I love the way the sweeping branches of this Norfolk Pine gesture 
for you to reach out and touch them.

There were delightful textural stories everywhere.

At the end of our Sunday afternoon, we went home feeling grateful for this 
tiny piece of the tropics in the heart of our big, northern city.

More information and Links:

Allan Gardens is a botanical jewel that includes six greenhouses and an historic cast-iron and glass domed "Palm House". 
It is located on the south side of Carlton Street between Jarvis and Sherbourne Streets in Toronto.
Admission is free.
Hours of operation: 10 am to 5 pm
There is limited free parking available off Horticultural Ave.

I thought that I might mention that we here as far north as zone 5 can now enjoy a little bit of the tropics right in our own backyards! Though currently sold out, Gardenimports has on offer a Basjoo banana tree from the Ryuku islands of Japan. This banana tree has sturdy, fibrous stems that support 3' leaves.  Bananas like rich soil, require full sun to light shade, and need some wind protection to keep their leaves from becoming tattered.
Though they are the world's hardiest banana trees, the Basjoo does need extra winter protection. It may be best grown in a pot and  over-wintered in a cool, dry place like a garage.
For more information, click the links.


  1. Hi Jennifer - wow! we do forget what is right in our own "backyard", don't we? Fabulous pictures of an location I used to travel to in my younger years to take in gardening seminars. It also reminds me that I should renew my RBG (Royal Botanical Gardens) membership. They have a similar set up called the Mediterranean Garden. I think the numerous outdoor gardens RBG has will also be a terrific opportunity to build my photo library. Thanks for letting us travel along with you to the tropics!

  2. When I read that plants should have extra winter protection by overwintering in a cool, dry place like a garage (see last paragraph above) - it confuses me. This may be a silly question, but what is the difference between storing something in my unheated garage or storing it outside with a cover over it? I always think that the meaning is that things in the garage won't freeze .... but they do !! I live in zone 5ish and would welcome the storage if I knew I could store things in the garage and not try to cram them into a cold corner of a closet or basement.

    1. Hi Kelly, I am sorry for causing any confusion. Overwintering tender plants does seems to be a bit of an art. Heck, even figuring out hardiness zones can be confusing! Depending on the reference I consult, I am in zone 6 or zone 5. So which is it?
      As I understand it, the real killer of tender perennials, trees and shrubs is wild swings in temperature where you get a thaw one moment and then a sudden freeze the next. Right now, here in Ontario, we have had incredible swings in temperature. My magnolia at the front of the house burst into bloom and then went instantly brown when the thermometer plummeted. Last night we had frost, and now my bleeding hearts have brown withered leaves.

    2. Hi Kelly - it is confusing. I overwinter my Japanese maple and some hostas (both in pots) in my unheated garage. Although not tender plants, the pots will not insulate them enough over the winter and they would die. I've had great success with these for the last 5 years.

      And Jennifer - my magnolia did the same thing - it looks awful. Such a disappointment after a great start to spring.

    3. Thanks for your replies - so maybe i'll try putting some of my patio pots in the garage next winter and see what happens. But it can't be tender plants like a Hibiscus, it should be something that could be left outside in the ground for the winter normally, right?

      ** Jennifer - please forgive me, i certainly didn't mean that you caused me the confusion. Thank you for helping me to try and figure out the garage thing.
      I have a magnolia "susan" and it has survived the frost. It blooms a bit later than regular saucer magnolias and so her blooms weren't open when the frost hit. Two blooms are going to open any day now and I'm really looking forward to seeing them. Yaaayy Spring !!

    4. Kelly and Heather,

      I am glad that a lively discussion has broken out. (In fact, if anyone else has input on the subject of over-wintering tender perennials, trees and shrubs, please feel free to add a further reply.)

      I would keep your hibiscus indoors through the winter. I have a jasmine tree, which I put on the porch in summer and over-winter indoors. Like your hibiscus Kelly, it is too delicate for even a sheltered spot like a garage. A cool, dry place indoors (like a garage) is the place to store things like lifted bulbs:Dahlia, Agapanthus, and Eucomis, non hardy sedum and plants like a banana tree. I'd pack things like the dahlia in a cardboard box and cover the tubers with wood shavings or peat.

      I contacted Dugald Cameron at Gardenimports and he had this to say on the subject of the banana trees:

      "... many people prefer to grow Bananas in containers rather than in the ground. The main reason being that these plants LOVE heat. The warmer it is the faster and larger they grow. Bananas in containers will grow larger in a season than those in the ground because containers warm up faster in the spring.
      You can still winter them in the ground and many people do." Dugald Cameron

      Of course, if you over-winter a tender tree like the banana in the ground, you must make sure that you give it an extra level of winter protection to help it through winter fluctuations in temperature.

  3. Wow, these pics takes my breath away - too gorgegous! :-)

  4. When I saw the ivy, my thoughts went to a few days ago when I spent ages pulling out the tendrils that want to roam so much. I thought when I saw your, how do they keep it so perfect. Then further along..there was the gardener attending to the ivy!! Big Grin.

    Great photos...great to get away to enjoy lots of color!

  5. Great vieuw of your trip to the botanical garden Jennifer. Overhere some people are growing bananatree's but is very difficult to get them thru the winter.
    Have a lovely weekend

  6. Isn't it wonderful when you discover a jewel like this that you never knew was nearby? What a find!

  7. Beautiful! If I ever make it to Toronto I will be sure to visit these gardens!

  8. Hi Jennifer - Allan Gardens is one of my favorite places for that instant shot of colour. When I'm feeling a little dull, my husband will say "you need to go to Allan Gardens for a pick-me-up". I also like the conservatories in Niagara Falls (can't think of the name of them right now, but they are near the top of the Falls).

  9. Beautiful! Just beautiful! Wish we had something like that here. Great pics, too.

  10. What a wonderful spot to enjoy a bit of sun and colour. Although spring seems to have arrived the blooms still feel like they are a long way off yet. A jaunt to a place like this would be just the right thing to get your spirits up.

  11. Beautiful gardens and great photos!!! Thanks for the tour- saw all kinds of neat things I have never seen before. Love that. We went to the one out in Brooklyn NY and it was incredible. I had the photos on my old computer that got stolen so I never got to post anything but it was beautiful. Thanks for the tour of Allan Gardens!

  12. What a beautiful place to visit to jumpstart spring. Those orange cupped daffodils are marvelous.

  13. Hi Jennifer, the first few photos really look like they are shot here in my country. It is amazing how we, Homo sapiens, are always so curious. We from the tropics love the temperate species, I for example love wisteria, pansies, lupins, grape hyacinths, cherry blossoms, etc, but they are unknown here. So my few travels to temperate climates are timed in spring to see more unfamiliar flowers. And you folks in temperate climes love to see and experience even miniature tropics inside a glasshouse! Maybe there should be exchange residences for a few months for us people, just like the exchange students program. I haven't heard of such a program yet, maybe blogger gardeners should start it. hahaha! [I replied to your comment in my site]

  14. I'm sure this is where we came to about 5 yrs ago, we had 3 days in Toronto before heading for the Laurentian Mountains,it looks so familiar, a really beautiful place, must dig my old photos out!

  15. So beautiful! What a find! I am especially fond of the gorgeous daffs with the orange trumpets. Stunning. :)

  16. Hi Jennifer. What a lovely place. It always feels so good to find all that beauty when it is dreary outdoors and you are tired of it all. It lifts your spirits and you feel so much better for having visited. Such beautiful spring blooms and textures.

  17. Amazing photos ,-)
    Thank you for the Translatelink, i have tried to put it in many times before.
    But it`s not working!

    Have a nive weekend!
    Love P ,-)

  18. What a local treasure. Your photos are wonderful especially the daffodil and the muscari/hyacinth combo.

  19. Wow! What a wonderful place to visit. So much beauty. Loved it all. The Banana Tree was impressive.

  20. I received a Liebster Blog Award and since you are one of my favorite blogs, I wanted to pass it along to you! Enjoy :)

  21. Looks like a beautiful place to visit. The variety of plants and different colors are wonderful to behold - especially when it's still winter outside.

  22. oooh, wonderful! You're lucky to have such a place nearby Jennifer. I would be visiting all the time during the winter!
    I'm hoping to catch up on some of your older posts ~ my double pink flowering almond is blooming now and I owe you a thank you. Your blog was one that inspired me to hunt it down!
    Thank you for your nice comment about my Pinterest boards too ~ I guess you can tell where I've been instead of blogland! Have a great day.

  23. I do love your garden so lovely and inviting you are so lucky to have such a wonderful place to chill and relax


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