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A Moving Story

As a new member I would like to congratulate you on your excellent publication. I have been growing palms for 18 years and could have benefited greatly had it been around when I started. It has fired up my imagination and I am now planning an ambitious revamp of my garden using mainly exotics.

I have a 17-year-old Trachycarpus fortunei in a sunny SSE facing corner just outside my lounge window. It was two feet high when I planted it out 9 years ago, but has grown to just under 10 feet now. The original idea was to admire it from the armchair in the lounge. I would sit there for hours just looking at it. Unfortunately all I can see now is the trunk and the lower leaves which clatter against the window. I had read that they are extremely slow growing, clearly this is not so in my case as it has grown nearly a foot per year. I assume that the rapid growth is due to its position in a sheltered corner that gets extremely hot during the summer, so hot that you can't stand barefoot on the concrete path beside it. Anyway, I have decided to move it if I can to a position from which I can better admire it.

I have studied the section on moving palms in Lynette Stewart's Palms for the Home & Garden in which she says that large palms transplant much better than other plants, but I am not sure if our British summer is long enough for the palm to re-establish itself in time for the next winter. I am planning to move it in late April or May. Has anyone tried to move a palm of this size in Britain? Also does anyone have an idea of the weight, as I cannot get a crane to the site? Any information or tips will be greatly appreciated.
Dave Brown, 8 Via Romana, Chalk, Gravesend, Kent DA12 4UL

Trachycarpus palms move easily at any age, any size, though older trees take longer to recover from the move. The best time to move them is in summer, but they can be moved successfully at any time of the year, though avoid winter if you can. If you have three months before you need to move it, dig a trench of a spade's width about a foot from the trunk, and about 2ft deep, all the way round Cut through any roots you find, and fill the trench in again. Palm roots when cut don 't usually grow again from the tip, but new roots will grow from the base of the trunk. Thus, after three months it will have a brand new set of roots. You can then open up the trench and undercut the rootball, easier if you can get someone to lean against the trunk, to tip it over. Tie the leaves up so they don 't get damaged It's likely to be very heavy; a tree with lOft of trunk and a good-sized rootball can weigh a ton. If you can 't get a crane (or a truck with a 'HIAB' on the back) then just get a few strong men (or women, let's not be sexist about this) who, with a bit of manoevering, should be able to lift it out of the hole. Some books suggest cutting half the leaves off to compensate for the reduction in roots. I've never found this necessary with Trachy's. If the tree decides that its roots can 't support all the leaves it has, it will lose some of the lower ones of its own accord. This is not true of all palms.

Put the tree in its new hole (rolling the rootball in works fine, though the trunk may shoot into the upright positron, so watch out!) and build a saucer-shaped depression in the soil to facilitate watering. Give it a good soak every few days if it's dry, and the job's done. No need to feed it for some month.

If you don 't have time for the 3-months 'trenching', don 't worry, as the tree will move just as easily, it will just take a bit longer to recover, as it will have to grow its new roots after the move instead of before it. M.G.

Calling All Ginger Nuts

I am interested in plants of the Ginger family: Zingiberacea, and willing to exchange plants to build up an already extensive collection. Please contact: Geoffrey Lovell, 19 Oatlands, Gossops Green, Crawley, Sussex, RH1 1 8EE, U.K.

Plant Passports

Can anyone tell me the present position with regard to bringing back plants (palms, probably) from the continent and from further afield? I am going on holiday soon and would like to bring some back. Do I need an import license?
Peter King Smith - Woking.

You were always allowed to bring in up to 5 'plants or parts of plants' from E.E.C countries with no paperwork or documentation, if you were a tourist returning from holiday and they travelled with you. Bringing in more than 5, or importing even one by post requires a phytosanitary (plant health) certificate, issued by the equivalent of the Ministry of Agriculture in the county of export. There are obvious restrictions on 'dodgy' plants (potatoes, some conifers, Dutch elm trees etc.), but no problems with palms. The position remains thus until June 1st, 1993 (postponed from January 1st) when most commercially produced plants will require a 'plant passport' before they can move around within the Community. However, palms are exempt from the plant-passport scheme and you will be able to bring in as many palms as you like from E.E.C countries, again with no documentation. They will be able to come in, in pots, growing in soil or any other growing medium.

For countries outside the E.E.C very different rules will continue to operate. You will need a 'phyto' for any plants you bring back, even one or two, and they must be free of soil, although there is no requirement for the roots to be actually washed clean. Here too, the rules relax slightly after June 1st, but with added restrictions (palm enthusiasts note) about palms coming in from countries or areas where 'Lethal Yellowing Disease' occurs. If you 're visiting the U.S.A. or Australia, or anywhere else outside Europe hr that matter, it's probably not worth the hassle of organizing the documentation, just to bring in a few plants, tempting though the low prices may seem. There are no restrictions on the import of palm seeds from any country, and no paperwork is required, unless you 're bringing in 'commercial quantities' and then it's more about value than about plant health. M.G. (with thanks to Mrs Lillian Ehsanullah and Richard Bradfield).

Canadian Cousins

I felt I must write to congratulate you on the new format of 'Chamaerops'. It looks terrific! As the editor of a similar journal I confess my first reaction was one of envy as well as admiration. The full-page color photos bring the authors' subjects to life so effectively, much better than black & white photos can. And the front cover with the misty mountainside in Thailand with the shrouded silhouettes of Trachycarpus palms was a marvellous photograph and complemented the lead article perfectly.

I seemed to enjoy the articles more in this issue as well, particularly Jason Payne's piece on some of Scotland's ancient gardens. Here in Vancouver (Canada) most people regard our climate as similar to that of the U.K. though the summers tend to be a little warmer and the winters cooler. We too have lots of Trachycarpus fortunei in city gardens, as well as the occasional Chamaerops humilis. Also Dicksonia antarctica has recently been introduced, with some success. But that Cordyline australis at Logan Botanic Garden! We have nothing like that within 500 miles.

In the May edition of our journal (The Hardy Palm International) I have given our subscribers (about 140 and mostly in Canada and the U.S.) your address and encouraged those interested to consider subscribing. I hope some of them do.
Nick Parker Editor, 1 1692-89A Avenue, North Delta, BC, V4C 7J6, Canada

Thanks, Nick, and I'm pleased to return the favour (or should that be 'favor'?) For those who may be interested in subscribing to the Canadian equivalent of 'Chamaerops' the address to write to is; Frank Hunaus, 10310 Hollybank Drive, Richmond, BC, V7E 4S5, Canada. M.G.

Don't Give It Up For Dead

I have been growing palms for some years now and would like to share my experiences with other E.P.S. members. As we know a few palms are hardy, more are borderline. Heavy frosts will catch us out now and again. Many of my palms are grown in the ground, and a few specimens in pots are located in the corners of my garden. The area where I live in southeast England is usually mild but a low of -17.5C has been recorded.

The winter of '91 was a bad one here: two weeks of -5 to -7C with a low of -12C on the last night of the cold spell. Unfortunately, pot grown Cordylines, Braheas, Trachys, Waggies, Butias, Washingtonias, and Chamaerops were outside during these bad frosts. The palms in the ground suffered only slight tip bum, but with those in pots it was a very different story. Cordylines were the first to go down with their centre leaves pulling right out. A strong solution of Benlate was poured into the wound, and later some dry Benlate dusted on for good measure. All the plants survived and are multi-headed and look very tropical. One in particular has eight heads. A Washingtonia lost all its leaves. Eight inches of trunk was sawn off, and the remaining rot dug out with a spoon, and a strong Benlate solution was poured into the hole. The plant now has three new leaves and a spear, admittedly rather small, but the palm has survived, and each new leaf is bigger than the last.

Two Trachycarpus fortunei were given the same treatment, one was sawn off, the other spooned out, both given Benlate, both are now growing, again with small leaves. Butia seemed to be the hardiest losing only the centre spear. This has been rather slow to regenerate but it is growing away well now. The Waggy has three small leaves, even smaller than normal. But the biggest surprise was a multi trunked Chamaerops, reduced to 5 leaves on the main trunk, and a gaping rot-filled hole where the centre pulled out. This was spooned out and filled with Benlate, it now has nine full-sized leaves plus three spears. Every plant that has had this treatment has survived.

The moral is: Pull it out, cut it off, spoon it out, and fill with strong Benlate solution. You will be surprised at what will recover, given this chance.
Tony Keating - Surrey

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