GUNNERA MANICATA




More commonly known as the 'Giant Ornamental Rhubarb', Gunnera manicata is one of those plants that has never been left off of my personal list of favourite ornamental plants. From the moment I saw my first magnificent specimen growing alongside one of the landscaped ponds at Hadlow college, its dinosaur proportions and primeval design had well and truly captured my imagination.

The species name 'manicata' is from the Latin meaning ‘having long sleeves’, presumably a reference to the 'hairy' leaf stalks.

With leaves large enough to protected a fully grown man from the rain, you won't be surprised to find out that the Gunnera has the largest leaf of any plant that can be grown in northern Europe. And as such, it had a particular place in the heart of Victorian gardeners who planted is it in large numbers within the walls of England's large country estates.

You will often see these majestic plants in great clumps growing down beside a lake or pool. They love water-logged conditions, but if the soil is not wet enough their huge leaves can dry up and die. The young foliage is also susceptible to frost damage which will cause any new growth to blacken. There is no need to worry as health new grow will subsequently follow

Named after the Norwegian botanist - Johann Ernst Gunnerus, Gunnera manicata is native to the Serra do Mar mountains of south-eastern Brazil and one mature can produce leaves typically 5–6 ft wide. They are also exceptionally long, up to 11 ft, borne on thick, succulent leaf stalks!

The Gunnera produces a massive inflorescence of small, reddish flowers. This flower spike can be up to 8 ft long, and if removed can weigh as much as about 30 lb. The first flower spike will appear with the young leaves in April and develop slowly - changing in colour from red to brown as it progresses. Be aware that pollen is shed in May or June with seeds ripening in October.

How to grow Gunnera manicata

The best time to plant a pot grown Gunnera will be during April and May after the worst of the cold weather is over.

They prefer a sunny or lightly shaded position in deep, moist soil - preferably sheltered from damaging summer winds which will tear through the foliage.

Once planted, avoid any disturbance to the root system and protect the crowns over the winter by covering them with their own leaves weighted down with soil.

Draw them aside in the spring and pack them down around the base of the plant to act as a mulch.

For related articles click onto:
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Aquilegia 'Chocolate Soldier'
Camellia japonica 'Desire'
Camellia japonica 'Mrs. Tingley'
Crocosmia 'Hellfire'
Dracunculus vulgaris - The Dragonlily
HOW TO GROW COLOCASIA
HOW TO GROW GUNNERA MANICATA
HOW TO PROPAGATE GUNNERA MANICATA
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WHAT IS RHUBARB POISONING?
WHAT IS THE WORLD'S LARGEST LEAF?

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