Is it too late to protect my Gunnera?

Ooops… I feel a Christopher Lloyd quote coming on! For a few years now I have shown images of what I have done to protect the Gunnera in my garden. Let’s take a look back on 25th October 2010…

Let’s take a look further back to January 29th that year. My Gunnera manicata had seen through a fair few chilly nights and sprinklings of snow on the ground…

The Gunnera flower spike turns a black colour with winter wet and cold as you can see above. Eventually the leaves go the same way. However below the withered leaves the crown (the area from where the flower spike grows) was protected with a thick layer or two of hay. This layering method, between the upturned leaves of the gunnera, has successfully protected this plant for many years now.

The big Gunnera question for 2013 has to be … is it too late to protect a Gunnera plant from winter when its leaves and flower spike are completely black and wet? Well, that I can’t say for now, but I should be able to answer by March sometime – one way or the other. Ooops…

When it comes to garden plants, I generally give them the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes, for one reason or another we don’t get round to doing the garden jobs we mean to at the right time. Does this mean it’s too late to do them? Well, it depends what they are I guess.

In the case of the ‘Gunnera plant v winter’ I wasn’t going to give up on it entirely. Perhaps my mistake may be a useful exercise for others protecting Gunnera too. I’ll return to this post with an outcome image come spring.

My January 10th ‘late in the day’ Gunnera protection story for 2013 went… all black, wet flower spikes and leaves trimmed down. Truth be told most just broke away anyway.

Two large clear plastic bell jars were filled with hay then turned over the wet flower crowns as this is the part that needs protection from winter.

Not having a third bell jar, I used a plastic jelly box that was originally used as a hedgehog feeding station (with 13×13 cm entrance cut out at one end) which was also filled with dry hay.

As these were all light containers, I placed a few heavy plant pots around them to help stop them being caught in gusts of wind. Wire pins might be a good idea here. Job done!

I should stress, should anyone be following this method before I know the outcome, I don’t know if my plastic bell jars themselves will stay intact through winter frosts and cold – follow this method with caution.

It was a lunchtime weather report suggesting a weather freeze was on the way that prompted my late afternoon ‘gardening sprint into action’. Two days later and no cold temps or snow yet but my Gunnera will be appreciating ‘being prepared’ with its duvet of hay. It was almost dark when I finished but just look what I spotted…

Tiny cluster of Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ flowers,
Daffodil leaves peeping through, Alliums heading skyward 🙂

Crocus bulbs in large basket container and in borders near back door
growing much further on than planings in lawn (bit early for here).

Much earlier on in the day, during breakfast at the window, just look what other sweet garden moments were to be seen…

I’ve been noticing a couple of Long-tailed tits joining the large group of siskins that have been visiting my garden recently. LOL… the Long-tailed tit wasn’t stuck in the branches of my small domed Acer tree that holds the small window feeder.

My photos of the long-tailed tit and coal tit feeding together are a bit grainy due to light levels being low but what a new a fun sight to be seeing. I know I’m not the only one with the challenge of capturing early morning photos and video at this time of year.

John at MIDMARSH JOTTINGS captured a low light image of a Fieldfare on a morning bird table the same day. I hope he gets another chance to capture some images on a brighter part of the day – that was a special winter visitor. Some video would be good too, John 🙂

If you are out and about experiencing winter conditions – stay safe and warm. If you’d like to see birds feeding in your garden, it’s not too late to put up a bird feeder and during cold weather the birds should quickly find it and you will be helping them survive a cold night. Wishing you a great weekend 😀

Oh yes… that Christopher Lloyd quote that came to mind when I wasn’t following my own Gunnera protection plan of the last few years. I was thinking of it in terms of the winter rush of tidy–up and protection jobs to be done. However, I also move plants around when I want to 😉

There is always such a rush of work in spring that we should get everything done that we can in the more leisurely periods of congenial weather during the autumn and even into winter. But where there is any doubt about moving a shrub or splitting up a herbaceous plant in autumn, the task should be deferred until spring. That is my official pronouncement. Don’t expect me to follow it myself, because I’m also a great believer in doing a job when I want to do it, and to hell with the consequences.

Christopher Lloyd, The Well-Tempered Garden’, on ‘When to Plant’.

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in January 2013.

0 thoughts on “Is it too late to protect my Gunnera?

  1. Whether or not we say it we are all probably like Christopher in that we know when we should do things in the garden yet we do them when it is convenient. Good luck with your Gunnera. Love seeing your birdies even if they aren't the perfect photos. It is so difficult to get photos of these beautiful little wild creatures. My garden has just emerged from the snow. It is so warm here now that the birds are singing like it is spring. Weird for this time of year. Cheers.

  2. My photos at the RSPB reserve we visited on Monday were poor due to low light too. Just invested in a scope so now need to practise!

    AS for the gunnera – we thought ours had been killed a couple of years ago during the really bad winter but we had a couple of pieces reshoot which are now growing in pots. We need to restrict it as a full size gunnera is just too large for our garden!

  3. I hope your Gunnera survives! Don't you find those cloches get a bit too moist inside – even with the vent open? I tried a couple this year but I'm not convinced what's underneath is going to survive.
    A good idea (I've used it for about 3 years now) is those cheap/budget wire hanging baskets upturned and filled with straw – they are much easier pinned into place with garden membrane pegs.
    Your bird pictures are gorgeous.

  4. Oh dear I was in that position with my Geranium Madrense a couple of years back and it turned out to be too late.
    Love long tailed tits – they remind me of balls of cotton wool

  5. Hi Shirley,

    I hope your Gunnera survives… I think we're all guilty of leaving things and then regretting it. Like I know I should've got some compost out and protected various plants before the 'winter weather' arrives. But it's just too cold, and I'm too lazy (recovering from an ear infection, but really I'm too lazy). So if my Salvia and Verbena don't make it, I have only myself to blame.

    Lovely LTTs, I tend to get them in winter too and have put out fat balls for them since it's cold and they do tend to love them. I've also noticed a pair of songys visiting recently – normally only happens in snow – I think it's a sign of the poor summer/autumn and there's no food in the wood for them across the road so they've been pushed to visit me instead. Blackbird isn't happy though and chases them away!

  6. I hope the Gunnera does survive Shirley. I have followed its Winter protection stories for some years now, it would be very sad if you lost it.

    I loved the encounter between the LTT and the Coal Tit and the LTT really did look like it was trapped in the branches, so glad it wasn't 🙂

    P.S. Thank you Shirley, I will be in touch soon 😉

  7. Thanks for the mention Shirl. Not seen any more Fieldfare visits so no video as yet. Maybe the snow will bring them in.

    Great to get the shots of the LTT. They are such delightful birds. About the only species I have never seen argue.

  8. Hello everyone, thanks for all your comments 🙂

    Lisa, yes I agree with you there. Thanks, it will be interesting to see what happens with the gunnera. Thanks, sometimes it’s the capture more than the quality that makes photos worth sharing. I’m delighted your garden has come back to you – enjoy the songsters 😀

    Sue, ah… I’ll be interested to see how your scope goes. Being truthful, I’ll not be too disappointed if I lose my gunnera as I’ve had it a long time now and I could always put something else here! Interestingly my gunnera has been the same size for years and has never properly outgrown the small space it is in – I know this is not the norm 😉

    Angie, it will be interesting to see. I’m not too bothered if it doesn’t. Now, there’s a thing, I’ve never used cloches so I’ll keep an eye on ventilation. That sounds a good idea with the upturned hanging basket. Thanks, I’m delighted you liked them 😀

    Helen, yep we will see here – as I said above not too bothered as it could be a new planting opportunity! Ah yes… cotton wool balls, so sweet little things 🙂

    Liz, yes guilty we are at times. I saw you had been unwell – hope you are getting better now. Enjoy your LTTs and you songys – those Blackbirds argue with themselves too so the songy just has to nip in when they are busy squabbling 😉

    Rachelle, yes, it’s the leaves method I usually do but they were completely rotten this time and unusable. Yep, good advice though 🙂

    Jan, ah yes, I try to mix this story up every year if I can but this was not my intention this time! I’m not too sad, I’ve enjoyed this plant for many years. I loved that encounter too – so glad I looked out the window at the right time. Lol – I had to mention it not being trapped – fun looking though 😉

    John, you’re welcome! Your post did catch my eye. I was lucky to see the LTT. We’ve been seeing a couple joining big finch groups. I’m delighted they have found this feeder so close to my window 😀

  9. HI
    As regards your Gunnera, i have been using an old Chimney pot which i cover the top with an old slab.
    This worked for my grandfather back in the 50's and is working very well for me.
    Regards Trummers
    Check out relaxwithtwigs sometime,

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