Beginning from scratch.
Kim & Penny Burton, 3 Dogley Villa Court, Fenay Bridge, Huddersfield,
Chamaerops No. 6, published online 23-10-2002
on this article:
Click here to read them or to add your own.
Like palms themselves an interest in palms develops
from something small and insignificant into something altogether
more exciting; at least it has for us. 'Chamaerops' provides a focal
point for palm fans - the essence of a Society is its communication
medium, without which it would disintegrate. Inevitably (and quite
correctly) it is those with experience who pass on their knowledge
to others, but beginners can easily be rather overwhelmed by articles
from those who 'know' and feel a little intimidated. Perhaps newer
(less experienced) members of our society will appreciate an article
or two from other beginners; a sharing of delights and disasters
- the experts, perhaps, can offer their advice.
Our journey really began some seven or eight years
ago when, after growing a few standard Parlour Palms from a local
garden centre, we purchased a couple of rather forlorn 'date palms'
which had crept into the said garden centre. These runtish things
obviously (to us) had some promise of exotica so we nurtured them
for a year or two, moving them from place to place in the house
according to their response. On reflection they cared little where
they were so long as they had sufficient water and light. Occasionally
a leaf would wilt or brown - such misdemeanours were punished with
instant removal. Time passed slowly (as seems to be the case when
watching palms) but we now have two quite splendid exotic and sophisticated
examples of Phoenix canariensis graceful leaves to about 2 metres,
now much softer than they were (a function of relatively low light
and frequent misting?). Magnificent swans from decidedly ugly ducklings
as you might say. Re-potting has been annual in proprietary general
potting compost and they are now thriving in 12-inch pots - perhaps
they will soon develop trunks. Encouraged by the apparent early
success with these two, a third Phoenix was found for the office
- less success here due, perhaps, to cold nights and water neglect
- a spell at home in hospital has, though, effected a marked recovery
(message here is don't give up - these plants are not easy to destroy).
During this time a few Kentia palms were acquired
for home and work. Like the office Phoenix, those at work fared
less than well but hospitalisation resulted in recovery over some
months - it would seem that whist they will tolerate considerable
neglect without dying, some simple care with water, food and light
is required for healthy performance. We have adopted a policy of
removing poor and damaged leaves largely for aesthetic reasons,
sometimes being quite severe in our pruning. So far as we can tell,
this has 'encouraged 'the plants to pull themselves together and
produce the desired look.
Our next stop on the palm trail was the purchase
of a tattered fan palm from a London garden centre. It was sitting
outdoors with a few torn, browned fans on a hairy trunk of some
4-5cm height - straight to hospital with this one. Instant re-potting
and a series of operations to remove damaged growth seemed in order,
and clearly this poor thing should be indoors! Five years on it
is transformed, trunk growth has been modest but its fan leaves
are healthy, quite soft and gentle in looks and feel. Only recently
have we realised that our palm is Trachycarpus fortunei - it is
now outdoors where it belongs. However it will doubtless soon lose
its gentle appearance, but with suitable fertilizer and an adequate
sized pot it is unlikely to revert to its previous dishevelled state.
At about the same time as obtaining the Trachycarpus,
and still being ignorant of palms, we collected some seeds from
beneath a variety of palm trees in Mallorca (during February). These
were placed in potting compost in the airing cupboard and occasionally
watered/ looked at more for fun than with any hope of a result.
Surprisingly, about half a dozen of these seeds actually germinated,
two survived beyond a few weeks and subsequently grew on a windowsill.
One died aged one year; the other is thriving but
has been pitifully slow to develop. This rather pathetic (though
healthy) specimen we now know to be Washingtonia filifera - a few
months outdoors has produced its best leaf yet.
So, what have we learned from our early experiments?
Palms (or at least our 'starter' plants) grow relatively slowly.
They can tolerate some abuse but fare much better if given a modicum
of care (water when the compost seems dryish, liquid fertilizer
once a week during summer, adequate light, new compost annually,
frequent misting) and a certain degree of 'customising' to achieve
the desired aesthetic effect - it would seem that they quite like
this form of guidance in their development!
Overall we have had a few disasters and a lot of
enjoyment - as the plants have developed so has our interest. You
will have suspected that we have become serious palm fans, but still
amateurs with something of a cavalier approach. Over the spring
and summer months we have come across such places as the Palm Centre,
Architectural Plants and the Palm Farm; what joy - apparently endless
varieties of palms, previously unsuspected, are to be had either
as seedlings or mature plants. A mad rush of purchasing ensued (surprisingly
without undue damage to the bank's fortunes) and a collection is
begun. Our desire? To demonstrate that even in the Penines it is
possible to grow exotic plants - we have only a patio so all our
palms are in pots. This may limit performance but they are readily
transportable, which is just as well for some will have to spend
the winter (or part of it) indoors - but, which ones, and which
will survive outside with a little protection? Come summer we will
let you know what we did and what happened in the cold northern
wastelands. Below is a list of some of the palms we are experimenting
with - perhaps others will be trying the same thing - if so keep
a record and let 'Chamaerops' readers know how you get on.
Trachycarpus fortunei (Chusan Palm) Trachycarpus
wagnerianus (Miniature Chusan) Chamaerops humilis (European Fan
Palm Phoenix canariensis (Canary Island Date Palm) Sabal minor (Blue
Palmetto Palm) Ceroxylon quindiuense (Andean Wax Palm) Washingtonia
filifera (Cotton Palm) Rhapidophyllum hystrix (Needle Palm) Jubaea
chilensis (Chilean Wine Palm) Butia capitata (Jelly Palm) Neodypsis
decaryi (Triangle Palm).
We are also playing with some purely indoor varieties,
as well as Agaves, Yuccas and Cordylines outdoors - perhaps we can
report on our experiences with these another time.
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22-10-21 - 00:19GMT
|| What's New?
|| New palm book
| Date: 24-05-2004
of Cultivated Palms
by Robert Lee Riffle, Paul Craft.
|| New: Issue 48
| Date: 24-05-2004
has been published in the Members Area.
|| Archive complete!
| Date: 03-12-2002
| All Chamaerops issues can now be found in the archive:
More than 350 articles are on-line!
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| Date: 28-08-2002
| Chamaerops mags 13,
have been added to the members area. More than 250 articles are now online!
|| 42 as free pdf-file
| Date: 05-08-2002
Download! Chamaerops No. 42 can be downloaded for free to intruduce the new layout and size to
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|| Book List
| Date: 28-05-2001
a look at our brand new Book List edited by Carolyn Strudwick
|| New Book
| Date: 25-01-2001
by Mario Stähler
This german book tells you all about how to cultivate your palms in Central Europe. more...