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Gunnera manicata, otherwise known as the 'Giant Ornamental Rhubarb' is not only a popular architectural plant, it is also the largest leaved garden plant that can so far be grown in the cooler temperate climates of Great Britain. Native to the Serra do Mar mountains of southeastern Brazil it is a clump-forming herbaceous perennial which under favourable conditions can grow up to 2.5 m tall by 4 m wide. The leaves are truly enormous attaining a typical size of 1.5–2 m wide, up to 3.4 m long and borne on robust prickly stems.
It will be happy in either full sun or semi-shade but in soils prone to drying out over the summer will need to be watered to prevent the leaves and stalks from wilting. Extended periods of drought can cause areas of the leaves becoming scorched. This can result in large patches of dead tissue appearing on the leaf.
Provide shelter from cold drying winds to prevent the leaves becoming torn. It is also worth protecting the crows by covering them with their own leaves weighted down with soil. Once the threat of late frosts have passed in the spring, draw the old leaves and soil away from the crown and pack it down around the base of the plant to act as a spring mulch.
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