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Martin Gibbons, c/o The Palm Centre
Chamaerops No. 2, published online 23-11-2002

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As I sit here in my shirtsleeves with the sun shining from a cloudless blue sky, in a temperature of 20C, it's difficult to remember February s icy blast, which seemed to have taken all of us by surprise, despite the warnings on radio and T.V.

I know that I did my usual last minute desperate protection of my two more delicate palms at half past midnight, having just come back from a posh dinner party and still dressed in a dinner jacket and black tie, tip-toeing through the already quite deep snow, with armfuls of bubble polythene, plastic bags and a blanket, stolen from the dog's basket out of which I had bribed him with a biscuit.

With torch in mouth, and Tamar's words about 'being prepared' ringing in my ears I wrapped up Washingtonia and Rhopalostylis sapida, at the same time fighting off the dog, Max, who wanted his blanket back. Curiously, it didn't feel cold, but I guess that was the effects of a bottle and a half of red wine. The thermometer however, disagreed, and showed -6C, already one degree below the absolute minimum for the Nikau palm, which I subsequently lost. Even the Washingtonia suffered severe browning, though it s growing away well now.

The smaller palms were quite O.K. largely thanks to the snow cover, and I had a practical demonstration of what a good insulator it is. The following night I took the thermometer off the wall and put it in a seed tray on the ground, covered with a second tray. Next morning after further quite heavy snowfalls the whole thing was covered with snow to a depth of some 20cm. Inside, to my surprise, the thermometer was reading no lower than 0C, which dropped like a stone to -5.5 when it was uncovered. I knew then that I had nothing to fear for Butia, Jubaea and the rest, since they were all under this cosy white covering. There was something else under the cosy covering too. Max had had his revenge...

So, there are my most vivid memories of the winter. I certainly didn't hear too many people talking about the 'greenhouse effect' while it lasted. I guess they feared getting lynched. You can read about how winter affected a widespread selection of our members on page 5.


Just 3 months after our formation of the E.P.S. and the publication of the first issue of "Chamaerops" I am pleased to be able to report that we have close on 150 members, in Belgium, Germany, France, England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Eire, Norway, The Gambia, Italy, Holland, Austria, Portugal, Sweden, Finland, Switzer-land, and the U.S.A. It's very gratifying indeed to have received this level of support and interest so soon, and certainly proves that there was a need for a society like ours.

Articles have been coming in at a good rate too, some solicited and some unsolicited. If you have something that you think might be of general interest, do put pen to paper and send it in, ideally with a photograph or two. And don t worry if English is not your first language, just do your best and we 11 make any necessary changes. Alternatively, write in French or German. We have one of each locked up the cellar, who are just waiting to translate your article (any Italians or Spaniards care to visit?). We're so posh here you can even FAX your article in. The number is 081 876 6888. I'll let you know when I get the mobile fax installed in the Lamborghini.


With this issue you'll find an invitation to 'Kew Day' - an opportunity for all European palm enthusiasts to get together, at Kew Gardens, to meet, to talk about palms, to be talked to about palms, and to see them in the open, and under glass. Invitations are going out to all International Palm Society members in Europe, all European Palm Society members (that's us), and we're joining forces with members of the French palm society: 'Fous de Palmiers', thus a really international get together!

It will be hosted by Dr. John Dransfield of the Royal Botanic Gardens and editor of 'Principes', and Eric Taylor, who will be remembered by all those who attended the last Kew Day, in 1989. The date for this year's meeting is Saturday July 20th. I do hope that as many E.P.S. members as possible will want to come, as it promises to be a really memorable day.


Finally, on a personal note: those members living in the British Isles or who live abroad but who can still can receive BBC television may be interested to know that The Palm Centre is to be featured in "Gardener's World" on BBC2 on April 26th. You will be able to see yours truly' doing his thing and talking about the palm business, and palms in general.

The BBC team, including Anne Swithinbank - the presenter, the director, a lighting man, a sound man and a continuity girl, spent nearly 12 hours here one day last week, filming a sequence that will last just 6 1/2 minutes. And it wasn't because I couldn't remember my lines!

I tried in a small way to make up for the fact that palms are almost never mentioned on the media, unless in the sense of symbolising the tropics, and then only in the most general way. Maybe the programme will get a few converts and maybe the E.P.S. will get a few more members!
Martin Gibbons

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