Martin Gibbons, c/o The Palm Centre
Chamaerops No. 11, published online 23-09-2002

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Moving The Goal Posts

Rather than publish the regular apology for the magazine being late, it seemed like a good idea to begin calling the issues after the seasons, which allows a little more flexibility. It's a bit tough on our southern hemisphere members, but I hope they'll get used to it. So this is the summer '93 issue, and, hopefully, by the time it's out, the sun will still be shining. Now, down to business.

Magic Mix

I've made quite an exciting discovery. They say you never stop learning, and after more years 'in the business' than I care to admit to, I've just realized the importance of soil mix. In the past I've tended to pot plants up in whatever I've had to hand, with a vague wave in the direction of rain forest (peat) or desert (loam), but that's as far as it went. Recently I did some experimentation and potted up seedlings of the same species in different mixes. Far and away the best was a very open mix consisting of up to 40% chipped bark, 10 or more percent of a wonderful substance newly available: Cocoa Bean shells, 10% perlite, some slow release fertilizer, and the rest John Innes, a loam based compost. This mix drains well, and needs watering regularly and often, but you should see the difference!

Here are some examples: Chamaedorea metallica had weak, thin, yellow leaves. When re-potted in the new mix, the very next leaf was thick, leathery and almost black, with a slight sheen, as it should be. Perfect! Musella lasiocarpa collected last year in China were growing, just about, but looked weak. The leaves were pale, tipped with dead tissue, and were growing slowly (very slowly for a banana relative). When newly germinated seeds were potted up in the new mix, they overtook 3-month-old plants grown in a proprietary peat based compost in 3 weeks! They look in the peak of health, perfect green leaves without a mark on them, and with a lovely carmine tinge to the stem. Trachycarpus seedlings seem to grow at twice the speed as when potted in a regular medium. Try it! And let me know your results.

Help Wanted

Would anyone out there like to volunteer some time to the European Palm Society? We need somebody to promote the Society, with a particular view to increasing our membership. He or she would push for publicity in the gardening press in this country as well as abroad, and arrange for regular insertions in other magazines concerning what we stand for and what we do. Most gardening publications will be happy to do this - they need to fill their pages too! Posters might be considered, even attendance at shows and the like. I'll help as much as I can. So if you think you might be able to help in any way, or to take on the mantle in its entirety, please give me a call, or write.

Monkey Puzzle

Would anyone out there care to do some research and come up with an article on Araucaria araucana, better known as the Monkey Puzzle Tree?


You will notice that the orientation of some of the photos in this issue is wrong. In fact it's not a mistake but it just so happened this time that most of the pictures supplied to go with the various articles were the 'wrong' orientation, i.e. 'portrait' instead of 'landscape'. It's quite a major job getting landscape shots from portrait negs. (cropping and enlarging and all that) so I decided to leave them as they are. I know it means turning the page to see them properly, but at least they're in, and full size. So forgive me for your cricked necks, and I hope it's not too much of a problem.

Trachy Trekking

At the end of September, Tobias Spanner and I are off on another 'Trachycarpus trek', this time to northwest Yunnan province in China to check out a report that was written by the Austrian botanist Heinrich Handel-Mazzetti in 1916 when he was exploring this corner of the world. He reported seeing what he called Trachycarpus martianus on the sheer faces of the Salween River Gorge (height 600m/2000ft!) almost at the point where China, Tibet and Burma meet. He made some collections of leaves and other samples, and these have been gathering dust in the Herbarium in Vienna ever since. Austrian member Thomas Baumgartner investigated for us and found them there, and Dr Dransfield of Kew kindly arranged to have them sent over here for closer examination.

Well, Trachycarpus they certainly are but T. martianus they are certainly not, but what are they? Big fortunei-like palms, but with bare trunks, a real mystery! There is only one way to find out the answer and that is to go there, so that's the plan for October. After China, we're making a stop in north-east India to visit the Khasia Hills, the locus classicus of the real Trachycarpus martianus (at one time it was called Trachycarpus Khasianus) and it will be very interesting to see it after all this time. Watch this space for the full story!

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