A Few Lines From Veenendaal

An invitation to Wim Takken's garden in Holland.
W. G. Takken, P.H. v. Rynstraat 60, 3904 Hi Veenendaal, Netherlands
Chamaerops No. 6, published online 23-10-2002

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Left: Going Dutch: The author in his garden with Cycads & Palms.
Right: Dasylirion atrotrichum: Patience rewarded

I am sorry to say, but I've just had it. Reading all those stories about winter-hardy palms in our countries. Reading how all around Europe, Trachycarpus fortunei survived temperatures of minus 14°C. and even less without protection.

Well, the winter of 199091 killed my second Trachy. Earlier in 1989, I already lost a specimen with a 60cm tall trunk. This time I thought I had a good position in my garden for a Trachy with a 30cm trunk - more or less protected from cold north-east winds by a big Rhododendron, a 2 metre tall clump of Miscanthus grass and a 5 metre tall clump of Phyllostachys (Bamboo).

As Wilko Karmelk already wrote in this magazine, temperatures in Holland fell to about - I 4"C. As a result, the leaves of my Trachy were heavily burned and last summer I could just pull out the centre spear - the growing point had rotted away.

I don't know why my efforts remain without success. Maybe it is the place in Holland where I live, a valley in the east of the province of Utrecht. My experiments with palms in the ground in my garden have come to an end, but maybe someday when the wounds are healed, I will try again. But I'll make certain that I give them greater winter protection.

In the October issue, you asked for information a bout Tree Ferns. Indeed, I have experience in growing them as container plants. I still have a Blechnum nudum with a 1 metre tall black trunk and a Blechnum brasiliense with a 30cm tall stem

Until two years ago, I also had three other tree ferns - a Dicksonia with 60cm fronds and a 2-metre trunk, and another with much bigger fronds also on a 2-metre trunk. Also I had a Dicksonia squarrosa.

Two years ago, I sold them because they didn't combine well with my citrus trees. Keeping the ferns moist caused fungi on the citrus trees, so, forced by the knowledge that my wife would kill me if I sold the citrus trees, I made a choice in their favour. By the way, lack of space in the greenhouse was a further factor in my choice.

My experience with Tree Ferns, kept as container plants in my garden during frost-free periods was very good. Giving them a shady position and keeping their trunks moist ensures very beautiful plants that combine well with palms, cycads and cordylines, etc. Convenient is the fact that Tree Ferns can be grown in small containers.

Another interesting group of container plants I keep are the cycads. Growing these beautiful plants requires a lot of patience. Growth is rather slow and sometimes they show no growth at all for a long period. I once had a Cycas revoluta, which had lost all its leaves. For 5 years, every spring I took the plant out of its container, checked that the roots were in good shape and put it back in the container. Finally, after 5 years, the plant rewarded my patience with a new set of leaves and it is still going strong.

Last summer, another Cycas revoluta with a 60cm stem made a new crown with no less than 28 leaves. It is a great thing to see how such a pack of new leaves develops and it makes you forget all the difficulties in handling these heavy plants.

When cycads grow new leaves, I bring them back into the greenhouse. I do this after a cycad with emerging new leaves was attacked by earwigs that ate some of the new and still soft leaflets. These newly emerging leaves are very vulnerable - heavy rains and hail may cause serious damage too.

Finally, I have to report something special. Since 1983, I've had a Dasylirion atrotrichum. It is a plant from the southern part of the USA with a crown of narrow leaves that are fiercely armed. From a distance, it looks like a Yucca or a Cordyline. In August last year, I noticed a strange kind of growth in the centre of the plant. This had a different colour. One day, I suddenly realised that my plant was coming into bloom! A big Yucca-like flowerstalk was emerging from the heart of the plant. I had never seen this before, not even in botanical gardens over here. The flowerstalk reached a height of 150cm, but, because October was already on the calendar, the flowers didn't develop fully. Nevertheless, I have seen a few small Mimosa-like flowerballs. I now have to wait and see if the plant is strong enough to take up normal vegetative growth or if it dies.

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