Editorial

Martin Gibbons, c/o The Palm Centre
Chamaerops No. 17, published online 23-07-2002

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Comme d'Habitude

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 continued patience.

Perplexing Parajubaea

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.

Trachycarpus Novum

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 formal name.

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 literally.

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.

Frosty Comments

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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  28-07-17 - 10:47GMT
 What's New?
 New palm book
 Date: 24-05-2004

An Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms
by Robert Lee Riffle, Paul Craft.
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Chamaerops 48
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 Date: 25-01-2001
'Palmen in Mitteleuropa'
by Mario Stähler
This german book tells you all about how to cultivate your palms in Central Europe. more...