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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.
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'
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.
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
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
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
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
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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