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The bananas grown in King’s Cross

Gardening expert hails fruit success at Great Croft Resource Centre

28 July, 2017 — By Tom Foot

ONE of the country’s top gardening experts has praised the skill and persistence of an elderly day centre member after she got a banana tree to fruit for the first time.

Guy Barter, chief horticulturalist at the Royal Horticultural Society, told the New Journal that Hafsa Begum had shown great persistence and skill in bringing the plant to “fruition”. He said the “very interesting” news was the RHS’s first British banana tree success reported this year.

Ms Begum used to grow bananas in her home village in Sylhet, a district of Bangladesh, but hasn’t been able to so far in this country – despite six years of trying in the Great Croft garden. “I feel so happy I have managed to grow bananas in this country, it’s giving me the feeling of back home,” she said. “Many said it would not come, but see here they are! I’ve made friends here and we all do gardening together.”

Hafsa Begum shows off the banana tree fruits

The lady’s finger bananas – also known as sugar bananas – came from a tree planted in the garden of Great Croft Resource Centre in King’s Cross, run by Age UK Camden, six years ago.

Ms Begum, who has used the centre for 10 years, has tended to it every week. The charity said the garden helped “bring back memories from her village” and helped her and others leave her worries behind and battle depression. Day centres are a crucial place for elderly people in Camden, who are often isolated, to socialise and activities.

The banana tree was donated to Great Croft by the council, which used to run the centre until funding was removed, at an event in Russell Square, Bloomsbury, in 2010. Bananas are normally grown in hot countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia or Africa. In this country, the tropical plant’s leaves will normally die in the winter months.

Mr Barter said that London, which he described as an “urban heat island”, had a particularly warm climate, adding: “All the same, a banana has to do particularly well to actually flower and fruit outdoors, even in warm districts, without the aid of a greenhouse for at least part of the year. It is a credit to the grower’s skill and persistence that she has brought the plant to fruition. This is the first of what I hope will be a run of successful reports.”

Great Croft provides a variety of services and activities including indoor bowling, computer lessons, tai chi and gardening. Ms Begum also grows pumpkins and other vegetables.

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