Letters

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Letters Wanted

I'm glad you're considering a 'wants' section in Chamaerops. If you can, will you insert the following: 'WANTED: Yucca X Vomerensis (Y. aloifolia X Y. gloriosa); Yucca recurvifolia Marginata; Yucca gloriosa Striata. Also any other unusual varieties/cultivars.' Collin Crooks, 230 Lonsdale Avenue, London E6.

Exotic Bradford

About 18 months ago our new postman, noticing my Cordylines, remarked that there were 'more palm trees in Bradford than at the seaside'. A bold statement indeed! When I asked him what he meant he told me of another house in Wyke with a 'big palm tree' in it. He gave me the address and the next day I set off to find it, expecting to be disappointed by finding, at best, a small Cordyline. Imagine my delight and surprise when, at the end of the cul-de-sac he had directed me to was, sure enough, a big palm tree indeed. A Trachycarpus fortunei no less, with a height of around 12 or 14 feet, very healthy and showing evidence of several years' fruit.

The owner told me he had planted it about 30 years ago and had purchased it where I bought mine - Thornton Hall Gardens, near Hull. He then produced a newspaper cutting with a picture and story about yet another Trachy. It was dated 1969 and I wondered if it would still be there after more than 20 years.

A few days later, with A-Z inn hand, I arrived at an old Victorian house inn an area that used to be favoured by the wealthy businessmen and mill owners of yesteryear. As I couldn't see any sign of the palm, I knocked on the door and explained myself to the lady who answered it. Yes, she said, the palm was still there, although on several occasions she had considered cutting it down due to it's blocking the light to the kitchen. She admitted taking 'all sorts of other unusual things' out of the garden.

I urged her to contact me if she ever seriously considered having it removed; I would gladly take on the task. However, I hardly realized what I was offering, for when we walked out to the back garden, I realized that it would be a major task.

It was even bigger than the Trachy I had seen at Inverewe Gardens a few months previously. It was about 16 feet (5m) tall, green, lush, and being protected by its close proximity to the house. It had grown considerably since 1969. 1 guessed it to be about 80 years old.

It struck me as ironic that I recently travelled a round trip of 1000 miles to Inverewe and back, yet here on my doorstep were two excellent and unsuspected examples of Exotica.

I'll keep 'Chamaerops' readers informed of any other palm discoveries in 'the land of the flat cap and whippet'.
Damon Cockroft - West Yorkshire.

A Date To Remember

I wonder if anyone remembers a BBC 9 0'c news item during the very cold snap we had in 1987. It was about 3 Phoenix canariensis planted in a park in Weymouth by the local authority at a cost of around £6,000. Unfortunately, just as they had been planted the February cold snap occurred and there were the beleaguered palm trees in the middle of a blizzard, wrapped in electric blankets in an attempt to help them survive. I have been to Weymouth since but have failed to find any sign of the brave palms. Can anybody shed any light on this subject?
Ken White, Suffolk.

Yes, I can. The palms (P. dactylifera by the way, not P. canariensis) were imported into this country from Spain for the making of the Stanley Kubrick film "Full Metal Jacket" which was filmed in Docklands. This was when the area looked like a bombsite before any building work started. It was to represent Vietnam, and as such, worked very well. The palms were cemented into skips, and used to line a street or two, giving a really tropical look to the place. They suffered not only from lack of water and care (they looked pretty dreadful even in the film) but from being shot at and bombed! At the end of the shooting (literally), around November, the palms were offered around to 'the trade' and some ended up in Weymouth.

They would surely have had a much better chance of survival had they been over-wintered and planted out at the beginning of summer, but perhaps due to lack of available glasshouse space, they were planted out straightaway.

Doubly unfortunate was the fact that we were due the coldest February for 40 years, snow, frost, biting winds! The poor palms didn't stand a chance. It really wasn't a fair test of their hardiness, and I am quick to point this out to anyone who concludes from this unfortunate episode that 'palms won't grow in England'. M G.

Crickets' Diet

Please find enclosed my renewal fee and may I take this opportunity to congratulate you on the second successful year of 'Chamaerops'; I thought the last edition was particularly good.

I was sorry to hear of the death of Akin Moinié. I met him at the last Palm Day at Kew and he struck me as being very enthusiastic about palms. I would like to make a donation to the memorial palm tree that is to be planted in his honour in the south of France.

I was intrigued by the article by Tony Keating on Crickets in the last edition. What it didn't mention though, was what crickets actually eat! I always thought they were a bit like locusts in that they ate everything and anything. If that's the case, they wouldn't be a very wise addition to the garden, exotic or otherwise!
Craig Snell - Wiltshire.

Tony Keating assures me that your palms are quite safe! In 10 years of cultivating both plants and crickets together, Tony's have never sustained any damage. Anyway, it just wouldn't be cricket. M G.

Mulch That Musa

As a new member of the society I hope that this letter doesn't duplicate previous suggestions for overwintering half-hardy plants.

Here in Cornwall, Musa basjoo is herbacious but the roots are usually winter hardy and form new growth in late spring. The size of the new plant is influenced amongst other things by the timing of the new growth and this can be controlled by its winter temperature and treatment.

At Lanarth on the Lizard peninsular a banana plant has been growing for many years and reaches immense proportions. Although frost protection is not necessary here, bales of straw are placed over the roots in the autumn and allowed to rot down to become a mulch. One can only guess at the root temperature during the winter but it must be elevated several degrees due to natural fermentation, and in addition this fertilizes and guarantees root moisture during the following summer. This idea could be used in other areas for protection of large, herbacious plants.
M. J. Bell - Cornwall.

The Woodpecker, The Cordyline And The Compost Heap

In the spring of 1987, I purchased a Cordyline at a car boot sale. It grew fast, and four years later a strong ten foot tall specimen graced my front garden. It sailed through the bitter 1990/91 winter without protection much to the amazement of friends and neighbours. Surely this must be the super-hardy Cordyline I have been hearing about.

In early summer 1991 a woodpecker started to take an interest in the trunk. Pecking, pulling, running up and down, making a right old mess. Leaf bases flying everywhere. This went on for about a week. A month later my super-hardy Cordyline was beginning to look decidedly sick. On close examination of the trunk, the dreaded rot had set in through the leaf base scars. This was over most of the trunk and it was impossible to save, it. Emergency treatment was called for.

The trunk was cut at ground level just below the rot and Benlate powder rubbed in. Every day 1 looked at the ground around the slowly disintegrating trunk for signs of life. None was seen.

Winter came and went. Spring, still no sign of life. In the following May I decided to replace the Cordyline with a four-foot specimen. Digging it up was not a problem. It lifted out like a broken fence post. No roots at all. The below ground section was still hard, the top crumbling. I planted my new specimen and with tears in my eyes dumped the two-foot stump of my prized Cabbage Palm on the compost heap.

In August I found that the compost heap was overloaded and I decided to make another inn a different part of the garden. On lifting the top off the heap I was amazed to see a mass of roots growing from the stump of my Cordyline.

It was gently lifted away from the compost and potted. I now have my Cordyline in pride of place in the greenhouse sprouting a foot high fountain of leaves. Moral? Don't give up too soon.

Talk about super-hardy!
Tony Keating - Surrey

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  16-10-19 - 19:09GMT
 What's New?
 New palm book
 Date: 24-05-2004

An Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms
by Robert Lee Riffle, Paul Craft.
 New: Issue 48
 Date: 24-05-2004
Chamaerops 48
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!
 Issues 13 to 16
 Date: 28-08-2002
Chamaerops mags 13, 14, 15 and 16 have been added to the members area. More than 250 articles are now online!
 42 as free pdf-file
 Date: 05-08-2002
Free Download! Chamaerops No. 42 can be downloaded for free to intruduce the new layout and size to our visitors
 Issues 17 to 20
 Date: 23-07-2002
Chamaerops mags 17, 18, 19 and 20 have been added to the members area. Now 218 articles online!
 Book List
 Date: 28-05-2001
Take a look at our brand new Book List edited by Carolyn Strudwick
 New Book
 Date: 25-01-2001
'Palmen in Mitteleuropa'
by Mario Stähler
This german book tells you all about how to cultivate your palms in Central Europe. more...