Letter From Hampshire...

Possibly our youngest member contributes this piece about the palms of this most English of southern English counties.
Nathan Wilson, "East View", 17, Five Heads, Rd., Horndean, Portsmouth, Hampshire, UK
Chamaerops No. 15, published online 23-08-2002

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Tall Trachycarpus dwarfs, 16 year old Nathan, at the Sir George Staunton Country Park.

I became a member of the European Palm Society on Christmas Day last. One of the presents from my parents was my membership to the EPS. And whilst reading through my first issue of Chamaerops I was interrupted by my mother who shouted to tell me that it was snowing, and sure enough it was, (the first time I can ever recall it snowing on Christmas Day, as I am only 16).

As I looked around the garden I couldn't help thinking that my Phoenix canariensis would prefer to be indoors sat next to the fire and that my Californian Cotton Palms would like to be back in California. In all I have five species of palms which are kept in the garden - Trachycarpus. Chamaerops. Phoenix, Rhopalostylis and Washingtonia plus many more which I keep indoors.

It was at the beginning of 1993 that I first became interested in palms. I was looking through a gardening book when I chanced upon a palm tree, (Trachycarpus), and I couldn't believe that it was hardy! The book said that this was the only palm hardy in this country and could only be grown in the south and west. Then I got hold of a copy of "Palms for the Home and Garden" by Lynette Stewart and I was well and truly bitten.

Many people would not think Hampshire a suitable place for growing palms, but the winters here are fairly mild and we experience temperatures of around -3°C as an average minimum although temperatures last November fell to -5.5°, but all my palms came through none the worse for wear.

I have only two palms planted in the ground, both are Canary Island Dates, one approximately 2 ft in height and the other 6 ft. They were protected when the temperatures dropped to -5.59C with a blanket wrapped around the largest of the two and a bin bag put over the top. The smaller one had newspaper wrapped around the base and a bin bag put over the remainder. All my other palms are kept in tubs and pots and I haven't needed to protect them.

My largest Canary Date was purchased from The Palm Centre, where I met Martin Gibbons, the author of the book "Identifying Palms" (which I am forever reading). Some of my other plants came from the Palm Farm, on Humberside.

My garden isn't the only place in Hampshire where you can find palms. The Sir George Staunton Country Park in Havant has two "lofty" Trachycarpus fortunei, which may have come directly from Robert Fortune (the man who discovered Trachycarpus and brought it to England), as he was known to Sir George. Also at the park is the remains of a palm (possibly Phoenix canariensis): all that's left of it is a trunk approximately one metre in height, resembling a pineapple. Was it killed in a hard frost? Or decapitated in a storm. There are also Trachycarpus growing in nearby Rowlands Castle, but these are the only palms I know close to where I live. There are plenty of palm-like plants though, Cordylines and Yuccas being commonly planted in the area.

On the subject of palms around Hampshire, I would like to mention Bournemouth, which used to be in Hampshire before the counties were re-classified. When I visited there last summer I was amazed at the amount of exotic vegetation. Almost every garden seemed to have either Yuccas, Cordylines, Cannas or Palms. The majority of the palms were Trachycarpus. But I understand that in the centre of Bournemouth are some roads, which have large palm trees lining either side. I don't know, however, what species they are, "Desert Island palm trees' according to my sister. I'll let you know.

Finally, if there are any members who live in or around Hampshire, or if anyone knows of any other palms growing in my area then I would like to hear from them.

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