Letters

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Phoenix Trials

Following my experience with Trachycarpus palms as mentioned in Chamaerops Letters Page Issue 11, I resolved to try my luck with Phoenix canariensis. In the summer of '92 I planted out in a sheltered spot a specimen about a foot high and as much wide, that I had kept in a pot since the seedling stage, protecting it only on frosty nights with a cloth draped over four sticks. It has survived the last three winters undamaged and is now 18" high and 2ft across. The lowest temperature was -6.55C in the first winter.

During the summer of '93 I planted out another Phoenix, double the size of the first, protecting it during the winter in the same manner. This came through its first winter without problems with a minimum temperature of-65C.

Thinking I was onto a good thing, I planted out a third last summer, close to the first and about the same size. Last winter was even milder at -5.55C but it was also very wet. And what was the result? The centre spike of both the last two had rotted away and pulled clean out. Now, was this due more to the wet than to the frost? And if so, why didn't the original one suffer the same fate? Are we back to a question of seed provenance or is it simply that some Phoenix canariensis palms are hardier in certain situations than others?

Whatever it is I mean to protect this sole survivor as never before, although, compared with Trachycarpus, it is not in the same league with regard to speed of growth.
B. A. Osborne, Leics.

Under The Hammer

I went to the annual plant auction at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew on June 21st, and I thought I should let EPS members know about this event.

Kew holds a (smallish) charity fund-raising plant auction each year, and although most of the plants are probably not of great interest to palm enthusiasts there were a few gems at this years event. I bought four seedlings of a newly discovered species of Date palm recently brought back from Taiwan by Kew's plant hunters, named Phoenix hanceana. I also picked up a rare relative of the Golden Cane palm named Chrysalidocarpus cabadae. Perhaps most surprising of all, I chanced upon the pygmy Trachy, Trachycarpus nanus, hidden amongst the geraniums. I see its provenance code is GIBO. Perhaps it was grown from seed collected by our esteemed editor on the trip to China reported in the October 1992 issue of Chamaerops?

I bought these palms from the 'odds & sods' stall prior to the auction. In the auction itself, a couple of one metre Phoenix dactylifera were sold for quite high prices. I wouldn't say the auction offers bargains, but after all, the proceeds go to a good cause - and the sheer theatre of the event makes it worthwhile. Perhaps we should organize and EPS visit to next year's auction? In theory only Kew employees and 'Friends of Kew' members are offered tickets but I'm sure we could talk the organizers into allowing a small delegation from our specialist botanical group.
Gary Parker, Surrey.

I'm p/eased that you were able to get hold of a Trachycarpus nanus Gary, but disappointed that Kew should place such little value on this palm, now on the very edge of extinction in the wild, that it should dump it in the odds & sods section along with the geraniums. I am confident you will value it much more than they apparently do. M.G.

Palm Symposium

On Friday & Saturday, October 20th & 21st Fairchild Tropical Garden in Miami, Florida will be the site of a palm event that comes along only once in twenty years. The "World Palm Symposium 1995" will have 13 of the top palm researchers in the world giving presentations on their most recent palm research.

The Palm Beach Palm & Cycad Society is sponsoring this symposium and we are very excited about it. All our first choices as speakers are coming and I do not know when such a notable group of palm researchers have gotten together to present their research. It is a unique opportunity and will have much to offer the novice as well as the long time avid palm collector.

We are attempting to reach as many palm enthusiasts as possible who may want to attend and are requesting your help. Enclosed are some 'flyers' with registration forms for any of your members who may be interested in attending. We are doing a direct mailing to all International Palm Society members in the United States, but because of the cost of direct mailing for overseas members we are relying on individual palm chapters and groups to let people know about the event.

We appreciate your help and I hope all will consider attending this rare event. Paul Craft, Palm Beach Palm & Cycad Society, Loxahatchee, Florida, USA.

I have a stack of informative leaflets about this event which I will be pleased to distribute to those interested in attending. Just drop me a line or phone me. M.G.

Hear, Hear

May I say how much I agree with Michael Ferguson from Vancouver on the subject of the direction in which Chamaerops is currently heading editorially.

I am primarily interested only in the palms and other exotica (e.g. Musa basjoo) that will grow in the U.K./northern European climate. Other articles such as field trips are very interesting when discoveries of 'new' species that may survive in our climate are involved, particularly when large quantities of seed are brought back for propagation and which may end up as plants in North European gardens.

Of equal interest is the type of article concerning the survival of a Trachycarpus or Phoenix in some climatically-challenged location north of Watford or 'How I propagated 1000 palm plantlets from a single seed using only a cocoa tin and a Boy Scout knife'. Articles of the Electric Garden type are amusing and just go to prove what lengths the well-off will go to in feeding their habit. But it's still cheating!

If we are to move forward in to the 21st Century as a Society we should be looking forward very seriously to see what we can do to awaken the UK local authority parks departments and architects in general to the range and availability of cold tolerant palms and other exotica. Indeed, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew are a few steps behind on this subject. The only outdoor palms I have witnessed on my frequent visits to Kew are some mature groups of Trachycarpus fortunei and some seedlings of this species in the lee of the Palm House. Surely RBG at Kew should be at the forefront of the debate on cold tolerant palms, and introducing some more innovative plantings.

I believe that if RBG, Architects and Parks Departments were aware of the cold tolerance and reliability of certain palms in our climate and could purchase reasonably large specimens at an economic price we would begin to see many more palm plantings throughout the UK and Northern Europe. Who knows, they could even line our streets by 2095AD.

Not only must there be a distinct opportunity for a palm supplier who wants to develop his business for the future but also for the EPS to become more than just a band of enthusiasts.

Is anybody listening? Do we want to push the game forward a significant number of notches? Does anybody share the vision of the streets, parks and buildings of the UK and Northern Europe lined with palms? Do we have three rousing cheers or are we all going to sulk by our Trachy's in our own back gardens?
Vince Carr, Middlesex.

Hello From Austria

My enthusiasm for palms began three years ago, and that was the year I got my first palm, a Phoenix canariensis. Every year I got a few more palms and now I have seven different species, adding Chamaerops humilis. Rhapidophyllum hystrix, a few Trachycarpus fortunei, and finally, a Jubaea chilensis. I bought all the palms except the Jubaea chilensis; lust year I got a few seeds and put them into soil in a heated propagation bed. Around Christmas the first, and until now the last, seed germinated. It's now about 7cm.

As you can imagine, winters m Austria are far colder than in the south of Britain, though I should say at this point that I don't live in the Alps region, but near the river Danube. Even so, I didn't dare to plant even the hardiest palm species in the garden because temperatures of -15°C are not unusual, though winters around zero are more the norm.

I was, however, interested m what would happen and put three Trachycarpus (each not bigger than half a metre!) and a one metre Chamaerops humilis in a wind-sheltered and dry corner under a balcony. All four were in pots, and had no protection. On sunny days, this corner can get to 105C in winter. I expected them all to perish because of the cold but the unbelievable and unexpected happened which will be of interest to palm fans: all three Trachys survived a 48 hour period when the temperature didn't rise above -14°C! All three came from different sources, so this phenomenon can't be to do with provenance. While they suffered minor frost damage, the Chamaerops looks dead, though perhaps it will recover later.

In spring 1994 I became a member of the EPS and I always look forward to the next issue of Chamaerops. I read all the articles about travels to tropical and sub-tropical countries with great interest. I am just 16 years old and can't afford expensive journeys - but I have been a few times to England and the most exciting palms I have seen with my own eyes are those at Kew Gardens. I would like to correspond with other palm enthusiasts from all over the world. So please write to Werner Mojzischek, AM Ipfbach 57, 4490 St. Florian, Austria.

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  28-07-17 - 10:47GMT
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