A Tale of 2 Climates
The two climates in question are those
either side of Canada's Rocky Mountains. What a difference a range
Nick Parker, 11692, 89A Avenue, North Delta, BC, V4C 7J6, Canada
Chamaerops No. 15, published online 23-08-2002
on this article:
Click here to read them or to add your own.
Above: Vancouvers tallest palm, a very handsome
Below: Vancouver: winter street scene, Trachycarpus fronds weighted
down with snow
Canada is one of the coldest countries in the world;
just ask any unsuspecting European arriving by plane in the middle
of the winter. And this past winter was particularly bad. Temperatures
of -20 to -30°C were the norm as Torontonians shivered through
the coldest January in 20 years. Montreal was even worse with howling
winds and temperatures below -309C. Out west on the prairies, Edmonton
and Winnipeg were colder still with blizzard conditions and several
weeks of temperatures approaching -40°C.
And yet, if you were to continue westward over the
Rocky Mountains and across British Columbia to the west coast, you'd
enter a whole new world. In Vancouver this past January people were
playing golf and jogging around Stanley Park in their summer shorts.
In Victoria on Vancouver Island, residents smugly mow their grass
and count spring flowers in February just to irritate the rest of
the country. And if you looked carefully around this part of Canada,
you might even spot a few palm trees.
In a country known for its long harsh winters, Canadians
on the west coast take great pride in this climatic dichotomy. Moderated
by the Pacific Ocean, Vancouver and Victoria, in the extreme southwest
corner of Canada have a climate more like Britain's. Overnight frost
in winter is not unusual nor is the occasional snowfall.
The only palm species considered reliably hardy
is Trachycarpus fortunei. They can be found throughout coastal areas
from Victoria on the southern tip of Vancouver Island at 48 30'N
latitude to about 50. There are hundreds about, mostly in private
gardens, the earliest of which were planted in the 1960's. The tallest
are now 25-30 feet in height. Recently, the Vancouver Parks Dept.
has experimented with public plantings. The experiment has been
so successful, the local Palm Society sees the planting of palms
as boulevard trees as a realistic, long-term goal. Other recently
introduced exotic plants include Musa basjoo banana trees, which
this winter have created an unexpected problem as plants continued
to grow inside their winter coverings, in some cases bursting through
plastic bags and other protective coverings. The Tasmanian tree
fern Dicksonia antarctica is also a recent arrival that has proven
to be hardy and quite popular. Kiwifruit (vines) do quite well here
too; there is actually a commercial Kiwifruit farm on Vancouver
Island producing several hundred tons of fruit each year, the most
northerly kiwifruit farm in the world. Mature trees require no winter
protection. A few eucalyptus trees are found in the warmest areas
near salt water. E. niphoplia (snow gum), E. globulus (blue gum),
and F. gunnii have all been spotted in British Columbia.
The European fan palm Chamaerops humilis has not
been as successful here as it has in Devon and Cornwall and other
parts of Britain, but there are a few protected juvenile specimens
that manage to survive winter if they are kept dry. Cordyline australis
is another 'subtropical' plant that has not been successful in B.C.
despite many attempts by a growing number of palm enthusiasts.
The Pacific Northwest Palm & Exotic Plant Society
is a small, enthusiastic group of palmophiles from Oregon and Washington
in the US as well as British Columbia. They continue to grow palms
and experiment with other hardy palm species. The English and European
love of gardening and gardens lives on in the 'new world' where
so many transplanted Britons and other Europeans now reside.
Fifty foot Monkey puzzle trees, and Magnolia trees
blooming in March probably don't seem that exotic to most Europeans,
but to Canadians moving west from Ontario or the prairie provinces,
it must seem like paradise.
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16-12-17 - 20:44GMT
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