This morning saw the frost back but it wasn’t too bad. We have yet to get a full hard frost but now when we do my Gunnera is ready for it. As promised, I have photos and details of what I have done to protect my Gunnera for winter. Although this has been successful for quite a few years now I never assume it will always be so – especially as now our weather is more unpredictable!
Looking back to May 31st, shown in the first photo below, you can see how lush this area was looking and how fresh the leaves in my Gunnera were in the dappled sunshine.
Last Wednesday evening, when I went out to protect my Gunnera plant as frost was predicted, this area looked quite different on a cold night with artificial light.
It was a dry night and I would not have done this job had the ground and plants been wet. Many plants were passed their best and the whole area was in need of a good tidy up. I pruned hard and pulled out some plants completely as I was certain with all the seed capsules that many new plants will appear next year anyway.
During my tidy up I set aside the Gunnera leaves (with stems cut off) and all the dried-up ferns.
Next, I went to my small Acer at my back door and picked up all its dry leaves from the ground and gently pulled off any remaining ones on its branches – they were ready to fall and this also stopped them falling into my pond. I now had all I needed to protect my Gunnera.
My intention was to protect the base of the flower. I loosely scattered all the ferns and leaves around the two flower spikes.
Now to the fun part… I took the smallest of my gunnera leaves and turned it upside down and pushed it through the centre of a flower spike.
I then repeated this using the medium leaves finishing with the largest leaf. You can see just the tip of the Gunnera flower spike now.
Job done and this area has had a bit of a make-over too as you can see.
Ah… but what about the wildlife that would have been living there pre tidy-up?
Well, the upturned Gunnera leaves will probably play host to much wildlife as will the evergreen ferns that grow in this area. I also have a sickly bamboo here too and on another dry day I will pick up leaves (especially the odd fallen sulphur heart ivy ones) and use the bamboo stems like a cage and drop the leaves into its base to provide new winter wildlife homes.
Now, as I walk past this border at first glance it looks neat and tidy but at the back and around its edges it still has many homes for wildlife. I also planted my Hellebores, as you can see in the foreground which will feed early insects in Spring.
Meantime throughout winter, insects can still enjoy the small pine tree, an ivy-glad rotting tree branch and walkway trellis, a dwarf Rhododendron and some everygreen ferns. Everyone’s happy.
Okay so what is missing? Perhaps it isn’t obvious in the previous photos but my Gunnera isn’t growing in water! Gunneras are usually seen as happy at the waters edge of large ponds or boggy areas – but I don’t have a large pond or the space to have one.
However, after walking under a huge planting of Gunnera at Trebah Garden my daughters were very keen to have them in our garden to walk under.
Now, of course, as my plant grew – so did my daughters so they are not likely to walk under mine! I am sentimental about plants though – so I will try and keep this one for some time yet.
Turning back to earlier in the year (April 12th 2007) you can see below what this plant was like when I was removing the protective leaves from the previous year.
New growth was forcing its way up towards the light. Now you can see the base of the plant much more clearly. You can also see the bottom layer of foliage has withered down too. I always worry frost will get the crown when I remove this to let the plant grow.
It’s only at this stage you can see there is a gravel path (also with stepping stones) leading down to my Gunnera from each side. It is planted in a small dip which is not perhaps that obvious in this image. I put three poles across to act as a small bridge for my daughters to sit on or balance along when they were younger.
Perhaps I should add here that before I planted my Gunnera I put down a piece of plastic from a compost bag – black side up and pierced a number of holes in it. I then added a mix of garden soil and compost and watered it well. This now acted like a bog garden but only in the area below the Gunnera.
In its first couple of years, if we had dry spells, I would throw a bucket of water over this plant and it would collect under the bridge. This Gunnera also grows out of full sun. During the afternoon the leaves do get some sunshine as you can see in my first photo but it seems happy there and has not outgrown its space which is usually a worry to gardeners.
Growing plants I find very rewarding especially when I try growing them where I want to grow them rather than where they would like to grow. I know… it should be right plant, right place. My planting experiments don’t always work but hey I have fun trying. I can always move them again… most of the time 😉
2008 Update:: I protected my Gunnera slightly differently this year.
2009 Update: I protected my Gunnera a bit later than I should have. I used a mix of the two previous years methods to protect it. It perhaps didn’t look too pretty but this was a very cold winter and this plant did survive when many other plants did not.
Unless otherwise stated, all photos shown above were taken during the evening of October 17th 2007.