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Stand Up And Be Planted

I found reading the latest issue of Chamaerops (my first) an engrossing and captivating experience, and I wish to thank all who participated in it. As I live in the Paris area and also have a home near Nice, I am also a member of the French association 'Fous de Palmiers' whose latest policies might be of interest to anyone who loves exotica. We were asked to write letters and to besiege City Councils with demands insisting on the planting of palms whenever possible, instead of those deciduous trees that are but sticks for half the year. I have done so far west suburban Paris, where Trachycarpus fortunei and Chamaerops humilis grow well (Sabal minor and Rhapidophyllum hystrix should do even better) and will in Nice where Ceroxylon and quite a few others have never been given a try. Those among us, particularly in parts of Europe who are not satisfied with palms in their gardens but want them in squares and streets too, should follow suit. It is difficult to tell what the outcome of this guerrilla war may be, but hopefully we shall see our cherished plants (Yuccas and Bamboos as well) become part of the landscape.
Alan & Blandine Frangi, Guyancourt, France.

Portuguese Pleas

Last year my wife and I decided to live permanently in our house in the sunny Algarve in Portugal. We built the house some years ago and we are now in the process of landscaping our 4500 sq. m. plot. Quite an exciting job with ample opportunities!

While visiting several nurseries/garden centres we were caught by the beauty of palms, even the regular' ones such as Washingtonia, Phoenix, Butia, Trachycarpus and Chamaerops, which all grow in abundance here. This made us decide to plant mainly palms in our palms in our new garden, so off we went and bought several different kinds (all rather small, due to the high prices for larger sizes). We found however that we (but also the people in the garden centres) still have a great deal to learn about palm trees: we were sold a Sabal minor for a Brahea armata, a Chamaerops excelsa for a Trachycarpus fortunei, a Phoenix canariensis for a P. reclinata. All this we found out later. But we were happy with them; the start of our collection.

We found the book 'Identifying Palms' very useful but we are very much aware that, when we want to make our choice for a palm garden a reality, we will need a lot more help, assistance and guidance.

The obvious thing to do was to join the European Palm Society where a lot more knowledge and experience is available, than we ourselves can acquire in many years.

As beginners we need answers to such questions as: what books to buy (ISBN number please), which other palms would be suitable for the Algarve climate, where can I buy seeds, what is the best way to get them to germinate, which fertilizers should we use, how much and how often, does humilis and excelsa' stand for the size of the leaves or the plant, are there other Algarvian members, how often is watering regularly' etc. etc.

Any advice or suggestion would be welcome, so anyone who cares to assist us, please write/fax/ phone/visit. Frits Klaarenbeek, Vila Maria, Estr. do Farol, Alfanzina, 8400 LAGOA, Portugal. Phone/fax 00 351 (0)82 358943.

You are very lucky in having a wonderful climate in which to begin a palm garden. A few brief answers: 1. 'Palms & Cycads Beyond the Tropics' by Keith Boyer, published by PACSOA, Australia, ISBN 0 9S87931 6 6 will tell you all you need to know about what palms to grow, how to germinate seed, landscaping with palms etc. 2. For seed supplies in small quantities, write to Mrs. Inge Hoffmann, 695 Joaquin Avenue, San Leandro, California, 94577, USA. Phone/fax (415) 352 4291. 3. Humilis (low') and excelsa ('tall) refer to the height of the palms rather than leaf size, but 'Chamaerops excelsa' and Trachycarpus fortunei are one and the same plant. 4. I'm sending you separately a list of other Portuguese members. I hope others will also contact you with help and advice, and that not too many take up your offer of a visit at the same time! MG.

Palm Alarm

I was recently given a 4ft Butia capitata as a birthday present. I was so pleased with it. I planted it in the front garden and it was doing well. Imagine my surprise when I came down one morning to find it had been stolen. Someone had obviously seen it go in, and had just ripped it out of the ground. Can you or any of your readers suggest any ways of protecting valuable palms from thieves? Mark Kettle, Little Venice, London.

I can think of a few ways: 1. Drive a long iron spike into the ground next to the plant at angle of 45" Drill a hook near the top of it and actually padlock the palm to it with a length of chain. Leave this visible. 2. Chain link fencing laid just under the surface of the ground in 3 or 4 strips around the plant will prevent anyone getting a spade in and won 't interfere with the lawnmower, or other plants. 3. Fit one of those security floodlights, which are triggered by body heat. They're cheap and very effective. Meanwhile if anyone has noticed a Butia appear in anyone else's garden, let me know. MG.

A Bad Move

I am about to transplant a tallish Trachycarpus and I am worried it may blow over, as it will be in quite a windy place. Should I stake it, or perhaps use guy wires? Mike Collins, Swansea.

Easy: If the new site is so windy that a Trachy will blow over, then it's being planted in the wrong place! Wind is much more of a limiting factor for Trachy's than cold Plant them only in wind-free locations, or where they get at least some shelter. Chamaerops humilis is a better bet for windy locations. MG.

Dioons In Perpignan

I write in French because my English is not so good!

A paragraph at the end of the Editorial in the Autumn 93 edition of Chamaerops bemoaned the lack of articles by Continental members so here is a small contribution from me, and I hope it will add to the knowledge of the cultivation of Cycads.

For several years I have been growing two Dioon edule cycads in my garden in Perpignan, in the south of France. Every year the plants put up new leaves, without problems, usually in midsummer. The aspect is south, and there is some protection afforded by a Golden Cypress and some Thujas. The only problem is that the plants are sensitive to frost and every winter when the temperature dips to 0°C (which it does most years) the leaves get damaged and it's necessary to wait till the following summer until they are replaced.

However last winter, I got wise, paid close attention to the weather forecast and the thermometer in the garden, and when the promised cold weather arrived I was ready with protection for my Cycads in the form of blankets, weighted down with stones against the wind. The resultant lack of damage made the small effort of protection worth- while, and it's a good feeling to see the plants in perfect health.
Philippe Gonzales, Perpignan, France.

Translated by moi whose French is also not so good MG.

Help In Hants

I thought I would write a short letter to accompany my article 'Palms in Hampshire', which I hope is worthy enough to print in Chamaerops.

As I have said in the article, one of my presents at Christmas was membership of the European Palm Society as I am nuts about palms. My pride and joy is my Phoenix canariensis, which I purchased last autumn. I was originally going to wait until the spring to plant it out in the garden but as I couldn't afford a big enough pot to accommodate it I decided not to wait. I dug a deep hole about 2 feet in diameter, and added good topsoil and bonemeal. The position is facing south and is protected from the north so the plant gets plenty of sunshine and its leaves are a good deep green colour. It was only protected once during the winter and suffered no visible damage; in fact it has several new shoots.

I would like to ask your advice about some Washingtonia filifera. They are in a tub, planted in a group of 3, and as they are all increasing in height as well as girth I would like to know if it is possible to separate them, and how I can do it without damaging the plants. I have tried to do this once before but only one of the plants survived and even it lost all its leaves, and is only now pushing up a new shoot. If they can't be separated, will they be able to grow to maturity? I'd like to put them in the ground.

Finally do you consider Syagrus romanzoffiana hardy enough to grow outside in this country?
Nathan Wilson, Hampshire.

It is possible to separate the 3 plants but usually the roots are so mixed up together that some damage is likely to occur. If you really want just one plant, why not just cut the weaker two off at ground level? Three plants together never grow as fast as one, and this will give the survivor the best chance. Plant it out by all means, sunny aspect of course, in well-drained soil and hope for a mild, even hot, summer, though it will need protecting for the first few winters, and subsequently if it gets really cold Use hessian or an old blanket rather than plastic as Washingtonias hate condensation and damp. See the article in Autumn 93's Chamaerops.

Syagrus is much less hardy and needs more heat to grow well thus I don't really consider it suitable for the UK Also they get rather tall and are consequently rather difficult to wrap!

I hope to get your article in the next issue of 'Chamaerops' MG.

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