YOU wouldn’t usually associate Wakefield with the tropics - but the sunny weather has had an exotic effect on Nostell Priory’s kitchen garden, with banana plants growing fruit for the very first time.
The plants have been nurtured purely for their aesthetic look at the National Trust site’s kitchen garden since 2012.
But having been moved to a western spot by kitchen gardener Mark Westmoreland, and with a dedicated regime to care for them in naturally chilly conditions distinctive, sepals began to bloom and two rings of small green bananas sprouted on one of the plants in mid-July.
He said: “They were planted here a few years ago because they look architecturally impressive and add an exotic aesthetic to the garden. I’ve always secretly hoped they might flower one day but never thought it would actually happen.”
There are four plants in total, which now stand over four metres tall, towering above the raspberry and blackcurrant bushes in this traditional English country garden.
Mr Westmoreland described the flowers and fruit as a “horticultural landmark” given that they are kept outdoors all year. Each autumn he covers the root balls with garden compost, packs straw and shrub prunings around each plant and encloses them in netting and ton bags to protect them from moisture and frost.
Last year he recycled the prunings from laurel shrubs onsite to pack around the plants, so perhaps this is the secret to summer fruiting.
He added: “To guarantee bananas flowering in this country, you’d normally keep the plants in horticultural domes, filled with warm air to simulate a tropical climate. It really is a wonder that they’ve flowered without such bespoke conditions.”
There are historical photographs in the Nostell archives documenting a ‘banana house’ in the grounds of Nostell.
This week a second plant has begun preparing to flower and so another row of fruit may not be that far behind.
To see the bananas, visitors can access the gardens 10am – 5pm, seven days a week. Normal admission charges apply.
There are Meet the Gardener talks with Mark scheduled on July 28, August 5 and August 31, where Mr Westmoreland will give an insight into looking after Nostell’s kitchen garden.