Every fancied living in the French Alps? What a high-altitude paradise it is, with all that snow, the furry wildlife, the hot summer sun and crisp summer nights, and the fields of banana plants. Eh? Banana plants? No, they’re not really that prolific here. In fact, until this week, I’d not seen any banana plants. Then I opened the Lidl catalogue that arrived in the mail. This is your advance warning that on Monday 5th August, you can buy banana plants (charmingly called a ‘bananier‘ in French).
I remember my grandfather had a banana plant in his back yard. It grew for about three years before finally producing a few bananas. I’m not sure they developed enough to be edible, and the plant gave up trying to survive Melbourne winters soon after. So can a banana plant survive in the Alps? A variety of banana-related websites indicate they’d shrivel up faster than the flies I’ve been swatting. Banana plants like warm, humid temperatures that don’t rise or fall rapidly. The alps are dry, very hot in the sun on a summer’s day, but cool at night. Banana plants dislike frost, so snowy winters are hardly their favourite thing. They can survive inside, but I’m not convinced they’d be happy enough to produce any fruit or grow very much. I scoffed at the futility of buying such a tropical plant in this rugged environment. If my grandfather’s green thumb couldn’t produce bananas in Australia, I thought, how on earth does anyone here expect to keep one alive?
Yesterday, when driving through Thônes, what did I see? A big, plump banana plant was soaking up the sun on someone’s balcony. It looked happy. If a plant could taunt me for my smugness, that plant would be poking out its stalk at me and saying ‘nur nur ne nur nur’ in French banana language. However, that plant doesn’t have legs to walk inside during that first unexpected frost in Autumn, and I suspect it will either die a sudden death, or wither inside an apartment, trying to stay alive long enough until the warm summer sun returns.
If you live nearby and you fancy a tropical plant on your balcony (that will die off in winter), get down to Lidl in Thônes on Monday!