Letters

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For Sale

Unique offer to all palm enthusiasts: Index and 103 issues of Principes, the Journal of the International Palm Society, issues from 1956 to 1988. Often referred to in literature, detailed descriptions of species found nowhere else. Only one set available. Price DM799. (around £350) Contact Ulli Gramm, Gellertstr. 42, 76185 Karlsruhe, Germany, (or Martin Gibbons at The Palm Centre).

Don't Lose Your Temperate

I am writing to say that I am saddened by the direction your beautiful journal is taking. I joined to get more information on growing exotics in temperate climates. The summer issue devotes 12 pages to tropical climates and only 6 to temperate.

As production manager for 'Hardy Palm International' I know the difficulty our Editor has in getting good articles, but tropical locales do not help us with cold climate palm growing.

Areas such as western France, southern Switzerland, Scilly Isles, western Ireland, Logan Botanic Gardens, Black Sea coast of Russia, etc., are all fascinating areas that would serve European members far better than the Philippines and Lord Howe Island where 10°C is unknown.

Please devote more (if not all) space to temperate areas, or at least to areas that get more frost. I am sorry to complain but it is frustrating seeing tropical stories featured in a European Journal.
Michael Ferguson, Vancouver, Canada.

If we had a 'Star Letter' this would certainly be it. The flippant answer is 'You write it and I'll print it' but there is more to it than that. Firstly, although probably most EPS members are primarily interested in growing exotics out-of doors I think it fair to say that they also are interested in palms generally, and as far as I can tell, the 'tropical' articles are well appreciated, and most readers like a mix. I say as far as I can tell' because most members don't communicate either their likes or their dislikes so I have to use my own judgement.

Secondly, although I would like to include more articles of a practical nature, they are in the minority of papers submitted, and short of writing them myself, there's not much I can do. At least there's a few such articles in this issue, and maybe this reply will rouse more of our members to contribute. Thank you very much for your letter, Michael, I hope it serves to encourage more members to write in with criticisms as well as compliments. M.G.

Palm Protector

I am currently a student on a design & technology teacher training course at Leeds Metropolitan University and for my major project this final year I am designing a modular greenhouse which can be erected over a plant in situ for the winter months. The greenhouse can be built higher as the plant grows. The design will also incorporate a heater and/or growlight to keep out the winter and /or possibly extend the growing season. It will be made of rigid plastic, perhaps of the twin-wall type.

This greenhouse could have many uses. It could provide the winter protection necessary to grow a number of tender plants outdoors such as palms, large cacti and bananas. It could then be used to raise cuttings or seedlings during the spring, summer & autumn. It would be collapsible and would only take up 2" of wall space.

I am still at the design stage and would like to hear from any members who have any ideas or suggestions. Indeed, any input which may be useful would be much appreciated and once the design is complete and working it would be helpful if some members could evaluate its practicality, usefulness and marketability.
S. 1. Furness, 25A Manor Park Avenue, Castleford, WFIO 2DN

I think this is a very worthwhile project and I hope you get interesting and useful input from some of our members. Please keep in touch about your progress, perhaps we could publish a piece about it when it's finished. M.G.

Underwatering Palms

In 'Genera Palmarum' I came across a paragraph concerning rheophytic palms which are 'adapted to the flood zone of fast-flowing, rocky rivers and possess narrow leaves or leaflets presenting a restricted surface area, allowing them to withstand floods'. Once you know that my two main interests are palms and aquarium plants you can probably guess my questions:

1. Do you think that any rheophytic palms can adapt to aquarium conditions? Submerged or partially submerged? 2. If the answer is 'yes' how can one obtain seeds of them? 3. There must be other palms which are adapted to periodically flooded areas, without fast moving water. Are there any which you think may be suitable as aquarium subjects?
Stephan Mifsud, Malta

The perfect palm for your aquarium would certainly be Ravenea musicalis, a new species, recently discovered in Madagascar (see Principes Vol.37, No.4), which actually grows completely submerged in a slow flowing river for the first few years of its life. The bad news however is: seeds or plants are generally not available so far. Other, more commonly available species, which should be worth a try are Chamaedorea cataractarum and Phoenix roebelenii. Actually, many palms will adapt to he grown with their roots and base permanently submerged. Look out for those tropical lowland species, especially from the Amazon-region and give them a try. T.S.

Musa Basjoo

I have grown the Japanese banana (Musa basjoo) outside with winter protection for five years and a sizeable clump has developed with a height of about 8 feet. However, I am under no illusion that this far north it will ever fruit outdoors. I would like to ask whether any members further south have achieved flowering/ fruiting and does the plant ever set seed m this country? Could anybody supply seeds?
John Woodhead, Whitby, N. Yorks

An individual plant of the Japanese Banana (Musa basjoo) will flower after two or three years, but only if it is growing in an area where winter frost is not sufficient to cause the whole plant to collapse; in this case, new plants will be generated from the roots each spring. Flowering is a spectacular occasion producing a bunch of bananas each some 3 or 4 inches long. No fertile seed is known to have been produced by this plant, propagation being accomplished by root division, or, on a commercial scale, by micropropagation in a laboratory. As with all bananas, an individual plant will die following flowering. A. W.

Rhine Valley Views

I became a member of EPS last autumn and this is my first letter to Chamaerops. I hope the questions and answers will be useful for all other - but especially German - members. I have two Trachycarpus about 1m50 and two small Phoenix dactylifera planted in the garden, sheltered in the winter. I also have more of the same, plus Sabal and Washingtonia in pots. I would like to know if anyone else in my area cultivates these palms outdoors, and what is their success? And should they be protected in winter with blankets (no light) or plastic (transmits light, but gets condensation)? And if the shelter is to be heated, what kind of heating is best (it must be safe!)?

Also, is it possible to get 'temperature maps' of Germany and the U.K. to compare lowest/highest temperatures in winter/summer? Are there any statistics available about low/high temperatures in our two countries.

I would be very glad to hear from anyone in my area (Rhine Valley between Karlsruhe and Frankfurt) with any information. Thank you!
Bernd Schnell, Oberhausen, Germany

Trachycarpus fortunei is successfully cultivated outdoors to quite an extent now in the upper Rhine Valley. The oldest plant I know has been in the ground for 40 years now (with winter-protection). Sabal has not been tried a lot outside, so experience is still limited. Phoenix dactylifera and Washingtonia have also been tried but will certainly need to be well protected during the coldest weather. I prefer a shelter made from bubble plastic. Without artificial heating, it will make a difference of about 5°C and can be applied or removed very quickly when required. Condensation can be eliminated (/ the shelter is removed or opened m milder periods. However, It is important that there is enough airspace around the plant. The palm must not be "wrapped up" in plastic.

Additional heating should only be necessary in unusually cold winters. A thermostatically controlled fan heater is a reliable and cheap option, another possibility is a heating cable, but the ones with thermostat are rather expensive. Always consult a qualified electrician if you re not sure about using these. Statistics of your local climate can be obtained from a meteorological institute. Also, there are plenty of statistics on European and world climate available in books which can be obtained from any major library. T.S.

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  24-03-17 - 12:08GMT
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