A few years ago we bought a small gunnera in a pot from the local garden centre. We’d seen one several years earlier, planted in the grounds of a garden centre in North Yorkshire, it was majestic and I loved it, so it found itself on my ‘plants I would like list’.

We planted the small chap at the far side of the field, in an area where it should stay moist most of the year and with enough room around it to allow it to grow into the kind of specimen I’d seen all those years before.

Several years later it’s still got a way to go to match the North Yorkshire specimen, but it is un-doubtedly doing well and getting bigger every year. It’s flowers are long, large and quite bizarre, it’s leaves even larger. I did try to sow some of it’s seeds one year, but no success.

Despite it’s great size, and the feeling you get that it can look after itself, the gunnera is not fully hardy in these parts, so every year in early to mid November, depending on the weather, I wrap it up for the winter. This job is getting harder each year as the plant increases in size.

Firstly I cut off all it’s leaves and flowers, a major operation in itself as some of them are huge, and I’m left with next years leaves and flowers curled up in tight, fat buds. These are what I need to protect from frost. With a combination of dry grass (gathered throughout the year especially for this job) old towels or old sheets and lots of bricks, I cover it up for the winter.

Then in early to mid March I uncover it. If any frosts are forecast either side of this ‘covered up’ period, I have to use old newspapers to provide temporary protection.

I’m always excited when the time comes to un-wrap it, and so I was this morning when I went out to take the covers off for the first time.

To be honest it usually looks pretty grim at this point, in fact some years it has looked absolutely awful, but it always rallies, and today it probably looked better than it has in some previous years, so I think all will be well.

Rather sweetly this huge gunnera has a small planting companion. A wild primrose has seeded itself within the leaves and buds of the gunnera, so obviously this too gets covered up each winter.

When I take the covers off, there are the primrose leaves, long and leggy and not very green, but it doesn’t take this harbinger of Spring long to get into it’s stride once it sees daylight. Soon it will be flowering just like the other primroses in the garden, nestling in the protection of it’s larger than life friend.