He's not bananas, just first to grow them in a UK home

Plant enthusiast in revolutionary 'eco-house' stuns admiring experts of the Royal Horticultural Society

A A A

A plant enthusiast has shaken the horticultural world after successfully growing dozens of bananas in a British domestic property for what is believed to be the first time. Mike Hillard, 64, bought three musa japonica plants two years ago to provide shade at his energy-efficient home, Tranquility, in Stroud, Gloucestershire.

But despite being told they would not bear fruit, the property development managing director can now gaze up at 16ft (five metres) of growth bearing more than 70 bananas. Mr Hillard, who has grown plants since he was 11, was surprised when the plants flowered and and stunned when they then produced four "hands" of fruit, each holding about 18 bananas.

He called the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) who said the news was so rare he "should get down on the prayer mat". The RHS has told him is the only person in Britain known to grow bananas in the home.

The bananas bloomed in his hi-tech solar room, which stays between 10C and 16C above outside temperature all year, and is just warm enough for the east Asian crop to grow healthily.

Now Mr Hillard intends to fry them up in a tasty curry. He said: "This has all been done by the English sunshine in my solar room, which provides my house with an oxygen-rich atmosphere.

It has been called the most energy-efficient house in the world. I was surprised when they flowered because I was told, 'Oh they'll never grow fruit'. Now they are growing into a forest, and I've got seven babies. I asked the Royal Horticultural Society and they told me to get down on my prayer mat because they had been trying for years to get theirs to bear fruit. Mine have grown to four or five inches and they are edible.

"Perhaps there is a Lord somewhere who has done it too but I don't know where he is. It looks like a giant beehive and the trunk is full of water. You would call it a palm. The leaves grow about 5.5m up, nearly touching the roof."

He said that he would be cooking the bananas in a slap-up meal despite the RHS's warnings that the fruit will taste odd. He said: "I love bananas and will probably cook them like a plantain; they will be very nice fried with rice."

Mr Hillard says he is "taking on" the scientific community's findings about global warming, saying the problem is much more advanced than accepted wisdom suggests.

Leigh Hunt, the Royal Horticultural Society's principal horticultural adviser, confirmed that Mr Hillard was probably the first British grower to achieve the feat in a house. He said: "This is likely because he was growing musa basjoo [the Japanese banana], a species that wasn't grown very often in the UK until the fashion for tropical gardens came in.

"So while it has been perfectly possible to flower musa basjoo in tropical glasshouses, such as at Kew, but it has been unlikely for amateurs to grow it because they weren't sold very often and gardeners had little interest in growing them because they required mollycoddling during the winter [they are not fully hardy].

"Unfortunately, the fruits that musa basjoo produce are unpalatable, mainly because they contain seed. Ripening may not happen as the low light levels of a British winter are not conducive for good growth. Commercial bananas don't contain seeds because they are generally the seedless variety, dwarf Cavendish."

Mr Hillard, a pioneering environmental architect, designed Tranquility as a four-bedroom "eco-house" made of Cotswold stone, which has total annual energy costs of less than £150 a year.

The former naval officer wrote his first environmental paper aged just 18 and has written several books addressing environmental issues, including climate change, food and poverty. Heating the house last year cost just £60 and he uses rainwater for showering and washing up.

Last month, Graham and Daphne Bath, from Hampshire, revealed that a banana tree they had been growing in their garden for the past nine years had borne fruit for the first time.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' embraces politics, religion, warfare, courage, love and loyalty, say creators
News
peopleThe Game of Thrones author said speculation about his health and death was 'offensive'
News
Justin Bieber performing in Paris earlier this year
people
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman and Lauren O'Neil in Jamie Lloyd's Richard III
theatreReview: The monarch's malign magnetism and diabolic effrontery aren’t felt
Arts and Entertainment
'Molecular Man +1+1+1' by Jonathan Borofsky at Yorkshire Sculpture park
tv
News
Glamour magazine hosts a yoga class with Yogalosophy author Mandy Ingber on June 10, 2013 in New York City.
newsFather Padraig O'Baoill said the exercise was 'unsavoury' in a weekly parish newsletter
Extras
indybest
News
people'She is unstoppable', says Jean Paul Gaultier at Paris show
Sport
Alexis Sanchez and apparently his barber Carlos Moles in Barcelona today
football
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips
video
Arts and Entertainment
In his own words: Oscar Wilde in 1882
theatreNew play by the Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials - and what they reveal about the man
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m
filmWith US films earning record-breaking amounts at the Chinese box office, Hollywood is more than happy to take its lead from its new-found Asian audience
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Compliance Officer - Trading Firm - London

£55000 - £65000 per annum + excellent package & bonus expectations: Real Staff...

Senior Compliance Executive - Top Bank - London

£80000 - £90000 per annum + competitive: Real Staffing: A highly successful Co...

AVP Regulatory Affairs, Global Bank, London

£40000 - £50000 per annum + highly competitive package: Real Staffing: An oppo...

VP Operational Compliance - Global Bank

Highly competitive: Real Staffing: VP - Operational Compliance - Global BankA ...

Day In a Page

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil