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I read with interest the article 'Mum basjoo the
Hardy Banana' (Chamaerops October 91). In 1960 I purchased a small
plant of this species from Tresco Gardens (isles of Scilly) and
planted it in a large tub in our heated Victorian conservatory.
In 1964 we moved house to Swimbridge, near Barnstaple
in North Devon, but as we had only a very small area under glass,
the banana was left out of doors in a sheltered corner. It survived
the first winter and was then planted out in the middle of the lawn.
It remained there until the garden was taken by
compulsory purchase in 1987, growing larger each year and forming
a clump some 2m across, and up to 2m tall in a good year. They were
featured in The Sunday Times a few years ago.
Throughout this 23-year period we gave them no protection
whatsoever. Most winters would see them cut back to ground level,
and in early 1987, when our numerous Cordylines suffered serious
frost damage we thought that this must surely be the end, but there
they were, poking their sterns up through the grass again by early
In September 1987 I dug up their massive root system
with a pickaxe, divided them up and transplanted them into our new
garden on a windswept hillside in the nearby village of Goodleigh.
The soil is heavy, stony, shallow, and over hard rock, and the winds
attack from every direction, but most have survived, and with the
help of the shelter-belt trees now gaining height, and some humus
in the soil, I have no doubt that they will soon be back to the
same strong condition as before.
P.S. I have been informed that there is a banana
plant growing wild alongside the A361 near to where our former garden
existed. I have not been able to locate it myself, but it obviously
arrived there with topsoil from our former garden!
Rev. Geoffrey Squire - N. Devon
I am a new member and congratulate you on your most
interesting magazine and the very high standard of the photos.
I grow many palms in my conservatory and have grown
Yuccas from seed, also a date palm that had to be removed to my
husband's office, as it grew too tall for the conservatory!
I wonder if anyone can identify the plant in the
enclosed photograph? Unfortunately the foxes devour our plant labels
and I have forgotten which species it is.
It has been in the garden for years, it is bone
hardy, surviving all snow and frost etc. It is much admired but
alas, we cannot give it a name. It is not a very good photo I'm
afraid, but I hope someone can identify it.
Maureen Thompson - Kent
I refer to the article by W.G. Takken, (Chamaerops
April '92) and specifically to the rotted growing point on the Trachycarpus.
During the horrendous and unprecedented frosts over
the western central half of England and Wales experienced during
the 81/82 winter, my then 2.5m Trachycarpus fortunei was subjected
to -17°C on two successive nights. All of the foliage was killed
and it appeared that the plant was dead, seemingly confirmed by
a total lack of growth during the following summer.
I recall that in late June of the following summer
(1983) I decided to dig up the plant and dispose of it. During a
final close inspection before commencing work I was amazed to see
the stump of a fan leaf, with woodlice as the supporting cast, appearing
from the trunk.
The Trachy made a complete recovery, is now 3.5m
tall, and has suffered no further damage in the last 10 winters.
My advice is quite simple: do not assume that a
defoliated palm has been killed.
Geoffrey Cooper - Oxford
In reply to the letter 'Soap Opera-tion' about natural
pest control, (Chamaerops April '92), here at Kew Gardens in all
the public glasshouses we now have a policy of using Biological,
instead of chemical, control, in all but exceptional circumstances
(it'll be a long time before there's a natural predator of cockroaches!).
The one product that we do use frequently is Savona (made by Koppert
UK), an insecticidal soap, similar to 'Safers' soap. It is mixed
1:100 with water and sprayed on the plants early on in the season.
It's very good against all the more commonly encountered plant pests,
especially Red Spider Mite. It should be repeated every 10 days
or so, but not in direct sunlight or when the plant is dry at the
We also use Phytoseiulus - the Red Spider Mite predator
- from April onwards. Temperatures need to be at least 20°C
if possible. These insects will consume hundreds of mites. If whitefly
is the problem, we use Encarsia, a small parasitic wasp that attacks
and destroys whitefly very successfully.
I'm still trying to track down some more information
on the two Trachycarpus by the main gate of Kew Gardens. They are
certainly original introductions from 1846, but I've yet to discover
who donated them.
Keep up the good work with Chamaerops!
David Cooke - Palm House - Kew Gardens
Can anyone out there enlighten me as to the cause
and cure of a condition on Cordylines that is just crying out to
be called 'Flat Top' where the bunch of leaves forming the growing
point takes it into its head to start leaning over at 900 to the
It's not caused by soft growth as the leaves are
still quite stiff and hard, and it does grow out. However it happens
rather quickly, and spoils the appearance of the plant. It may be
a response to a cold wind.
Torren Edwards, Peterborough
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