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Gardener Mick goes bananas for exotic fruit

Top banana ... Woodston gardener Mick Godfrey and his fruit-bearing banana plant. Photo: Alan Storer

Top banana ... Woodston gardener Mick Godfrey and his fruit-bearing banana plant. Photo: Alan Storer

If there was any doubt the summer of 2013 was above average, then the exotic fruit growing in a Peterborough garden should end the debate.

Mick Godfrey (67), from Woodston, Peterborough, has - much to his surprise - nurtured a banana plant at his home in Orton Avenue into bearing fruit.

The retired draughtsman has achieved the feat without the aid of a polytunnel or greenhouse, with the plant merely being kept in a tub on his patio.

Mr Godfrey, who lives at the home with his wife Valerie, said he had not done “anything special” with the plant, just given it tomato feed - a general-purpose fertiliser - and protected it from the winter frosts by wrapping it in a fleecy material and bubble wrap.

Despite these efforts, the grandfather-of-four did not expect the plant to produce fruit or even achieve the earlier stage of blossoming.

He said: “I never thought it would flower in this country. I always thought it would be too cold.”

The banana plant came into Mr Godfrey’s possession about five years ago when he swapped it for a Christmas Tree with fellow Woodston resident Tim Bell (60), of Peake Close.

Mr Bell, a landscape gardener, has been growing banana plants for more than 10 years, but has yet to see one even flower.

He said: “What he has done there, I don’t know.”

He added: “I have never known one to grow in East Anglia outside. All the ones I have heard about are in polytunnels or greenhouses.”

The RHS advise that banana plants need a long and sunny growing period of some nine to 15 months, with temperatures above 15C (60F) to produce fruit. Their optimum growing conditions is 27C (81F).

Jenny Bowden, a horticultural advisor for the RHS, said it was a "curiosity" for bananas to be growing on a patio in Peterborough.

She said, however, under the right circumstances, such as last year's wet weather and this year's extended summer, banana plants can produce fruits in such less than exotic locals.

She said: “If you have some nice damp weather followed by a nice long hot summer it can certainly happen."

The bananas in Mr Godfrey's garden currently measure an inch or so long. It would take a further two to four months for them to ripen.

Mr Godfrey, who grows a wide range of fruit and vegetables at his home, does not expect these bananas to be gracing any lunch box in the future, though.

He said: “I don’t think they will come to anything. I think when the frost comes they will die off.”

And his advice for anyone hoping to grow their own?

He said: "Just carry on. Just act normally, it will come."

 

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