Martin Gibbons, c/o The Palm Centre
Chamaerops No. 17, published online 23-07-2002
on this article:
Click here to read them or to add your own.
It will come as no surprise to most members that
this issue is, again, very late. My excuse this time is that, with
spring here already, we have been extremely busy at the nursery,
and unfortunately, Chamaerops has to take second place to that.
There seems little point in apologising, since an apology that is
repeated often enough seems to lose much of its sincerity. I will
try to catch up somehow during the year, and I do appreciate your
I wonder how many of our members managed to catch
the Gardeners' World TV programme that showed my garden? An awful
lot, it seems. And an awful lot of the general public managed to
track me down to the Palm Centre and it seemed that most of them
wanted to buy Parajubaea cocoides. Alas, I had to turn them all
away. The seeds are very difficult to get (I had to go to Ecuador
in person to get mine), and even when you can get them, they stubbornly
refuse to germinate. I tell you, they deserve to be extinct which,
in the wild, they seem to be. How does it benefit a palm if only
one or two percent of its seeds germinate? Answers on a postcard
please. However, the good news is that once they do sprout, growth
is very fast and they can grow a foot of trunk a year, as fast as
the fastest Trachycarpus and considerably more elegant. The other
thing is that they don't succeed in the Tropics, as they need cool
nights, so there's at least one that we can really call our own.
If the supply/germination picture changes, I will let you know.
Tale Of Cold Fish
There is another palm that I want to mention here,
not in any way as an advertisement but as a very interesting fact.
Can you imagine a hardy Fishtail palm (Caryota)? To most, these
delicate-looking palms are the essence of the tropics and most people
would surely expect to see them in jungles and rain forests. Well,
have I got news for you! During our travels last year in the Himalaya,
we came across several specimens, species unknown, growing at altitude
in very cool environments where they would certainly experience
temperatures of -55C on a regular yearly basis, and in one location,
annual snow cover. Additionally, they don't seem to need much heat
in the summer to grow well, as do so many hardy palms (Sabal, Rhapidophyllum
etc.). They are big trees, trunks 18" (50cm) in diameter, and
up to 20 or 30 feet tall. Can you imagine a line of these down Park
Lane? With difficulty. We were able to collect large quantities
of seed and these are germinating very well; I hope plants will
soon be available.
Now I want to tell you more about one of the new
Trachycarpus species that we discovered last year. It will be described
scientifically later in the year, for now it doesn't even have a
We found it in Sikkim, home of so many wonderful
plants and its working name is Trachycarpus 'sikkimensis'. It's
a most attractive tree, with big, leathery, regular, fan-shaped
leaves, coarser than T. fortunei, and more elegant. It has a naturally
bare trunk, ringed where the old leaves have fallen. It appears
to be rather fast growing; seeds are beginning to germinate now.
A major difference between it and T. fortunei is the shape of the
seed, which is more like that of T. martianus, and not kidney-shaped.
It will be very hardy, perhaps not quite as hardy as the Chusan
palm, but not far short of it, and we have seen it growing in some
locations where it experiences annual snowfall.
Could it be the most exciting discovery in the cold-hardy
palm line since Robert Fortune brought back the palm that was to
bear his name from Chou-shan Island? Watch this space for the answer!
See Rome And ...?
Last issue you will have read the report on our
successful meeting in the south of France. Lots of people enjoyed
it so much they have been asking about the next meeting, principally
when and where. The 'when' will be next year, probably around September
again. As for the 'where', how about Rome? There are some wonderful
gardens there, the classical architecture of the city is legendary,
and of course there are palms by the squillion. We have some good
palm-friends there, too, probably just itching to show us a good
time. The Botanical Garden just has to be seen. I think this is
what whoever it was that said 'See Rome and die' must have been
thinking of, though this instruction shouldn't be interpreted too
This is just a tentative suggestion and I would
be very pleased to hear from members with their own. September 1996
seems aeons away, but with time rushing past as it seems to do these
days, it will soon be here.
Finally, I must say a big thankyou to all those
eagle-eyed members who pointed out to me that it was not snow on
the front cover of the last issue (Autumn 1994), but FROST. Well
done all of you for spotting the deliberate misteak, haha! M.G.
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