Back To Basics
Starting from scratch with Trachycarpus fortunei.
David Kealaher, 22 Hill Barn View, Portskewett, Newport, Gwent
Chamaerops No. 7, published online 23-10-2002
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Happy Trachycarpus in Gwent.
I would like to share my experiences of growing
Trachycarpus fortunei (the Chusan Palm), and I hope that this 'back
to basics' article may be of some interest to fellow society members.
My front garden faces directly southeast. I started
by digging a large hole in the middle of my front lawn, some 1m
50 deep. This attracted the curious attention of my neighbours who
often inquired what was to be planted there. Such was the amusement
that I woke one morning to find a gnome sitting on the side of the
hole brandishing a fishing rod!
Over a period of weeks I collected soil from molehills
in the local fields and plenty of well-rotted cow manure, which
I stored in sacks. I also bought plenty of sharp sand and moss peat.
And in May 1989 I purchased a 5-foot Trachycarpus and a 2-foot Chamaerops.
Before planting the Trachycarpus I lined the bottom
of the hole with some gravel because the subsoil had a clay consistency
and I have heard that Trachy's don't like waterlogged soil. This
should assist with the drainage. I mixed up in equal parts the soil,
cow manure, sharp sand and moss peat and proceeded to fill the hole.
A friend helped me lower the palm into it and some more soil mixture
was put on top.
I watered it well for about a fortnight. I feed
the palm regularly during the growing season by filling a stocking
full of manure and soaking it in a large bucket. I then add some
of this liquor to my watering can.
The palm has been exposed to low temperatures and
high winds. The lowest temperature was -8°C in February 1991
when I taped a large piece of polythene around it as a precaution.
In its first winter the palm was badly wind damaged especially after
the major storms we experienced. I have overcome this problem by
binding the fronds together with some parcel tape, during the winter
months. I bind the inner fronds together first, a few at a time,
followed by the others, proceeding in layers. I think it's worth
going to this trouble to keep the leaves in prime condition.
Coupled with good preparation, two good summers
and lavish care the palm really has grown quite rapidly approximately
75cm in two years. I planted the smaller Chamaerops about the same
time. This has also responded well.
In three years my Cordyline australis must have
almost doubled in size, given the same care. It now stands approximately
2.5m in height and the trunk is now dividing after flowering for
the first time.
I also have a potted specimen of Trachycarpus 'wagnerianus'
approximately 60cm. I would be interested to know when this variety
was introduced to Great Britain and if there are any larger specimens
in the country, as the only ones I have seen are at Kew, and they're
My success with the Trachy seems to prove how important
good preparation is, and that it's worth going to the extra trouble
to get your palm off to a good start.
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