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Martin Gibbons, c/o The Palm Centre
Chamaerops No. 19, published online 23-07-2002

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Business & Pleasure

A Palm-as-U-Drive motoring holiday from Munich in Germany, briefly through Austria and into Switzerland, then down into Italy, across to France, right along the Riviera, down into Spain as far south as Valencia, back up to Marseille, garage the car, a flight to Corsica for a couple of days, then the return flight to Marseille, collect the car, then the return drive along the French Riviera, into Italy, Switzerland, Austria, and back into Germany was just what I needed after the hottest, driest summer for 200 years which together produced the busiest summer at the Palm Centre since it opened its doors for the first time, 7 years ago. (By pure coincidence, that's probably the longest sentence we ye ever had, too, you can take a breath now.)

The reason for the journey was a combined business/pleasure (my business is my pleasure as I always say) trip to visit various palm friends, nurseries and gardens along the way. Those who attended the 1994 Summer Meeting in the south of France will be pleased to know that the Trithrinax campestris in San Remo is still growing as strong as ever, also that wonderful group of Jubaeas in the sanatorium in Hyères, where the grass is again covered with their ripe, yellow fruit. A sadder tale from the nearby Jardin Olbus Riquier where one of their huge Jubaeas is dead, 30 feet of firewood. Such a shame - it was the thickest-trunked Jubaea I knew. Shame for them too: it will be like disposing of a dead elephant.

I was once again struck by the incredible beauty of the many Trachycarpus fortunei in southern Switzerland. They really do reach perfection here though whether it's due to the lack of wind, or perhaps the humidity from the lakes I don't know. But they are the best I have ever seen anywhere and this accolade comes from someone who has seen the odd Trachy or two.

Other highlights of the trip included visiting the only (as far as I know) European Trachycarpus forest, hundreds of them, most self sown, in a private estate also in Switzerland where you could be forgiven for thinking you were in China.

In Montpellier (what a lovely town, love at first visit for me), there are some fab palms to be seen, too. A group of perhaps 10 tall, gorgeous and identical Brahea armata, and not too far away more Jubaeas, again, a group of about 10 trees, tall, mature, and many bearing huge quantities of yellow and orange fruit. We collected one or two seeds. The side trip to Corsica was to visit the palm garden of our friend there, Jacques Deleuze. Planted out about 20 years ago with mainly small specimens, it provides an excellent guide to how fast or slow different species grow in that time. It is a wonderful garden and a visit there is always a pleasure.

The drive down through 6 countries, 4500 kilometres in all (doing our bit for the environment), took a very pleasant 12 days, and we met many palm people en route. It never ceases to surprise me how people of different ages, backgrounds, nationalities, educational levels and professions can be unified by a common interest. In our case it's palms, and whether we were talking to a junior gardener in Italy, a retired dentist, and a film actor in Switzerland, a committed palm-nurseryman in France, or a builder in Spain, our joint interest in palms removed any barriers between us, even those of language (although miming a dead Jubaea presents something of a challenge). I suppose it's the same with all societies, whether they be about train-spotting or bird-spotting, vintage cars or vintage wines, old books or old buildings, the common interest is the thing that matters, and all other considerations are of secondary importance.

Contributors to Chamaerops should perhaps bear in mind this European nature of our society, especially we Brits who often tend to be a bit insular in our outlook. Let's try to remember that our articles are being read - and enjoyed - not only in the British Isles, but by palm enthusiasts in just about every European country, as well as many much further afield.

A timely reminder now for those who have bought binders for Chamaerops. By now those binders will be full, and you will be needing a second one. That's because I told you that they would hold 24 issues and they only hold 12. Woops! Sorry about that. For those who haven't yet bought binders I should tell you that they are top quality heavy board and dark green leather cloth, and that they hold 12 issues. They have our logo and the name of the society in gold on the spine and are a very attractive addition to any bookshelf. Individual copies of the magazine are easily removable. The price has been unified at £7.95 including post and packing anywhere in Europe (£8.50 elsewhere). Hopefully you will find an order form enclosed.

Thank you to all those intrepid Palm Fans who made it to my garden in the first rain for 3 months! Full report later in this issue.

Finally apologies to the Brooke family who, as every schoolboy knows, ruled in Sabah and Sarawak until 1947 not 1847. Thanks to Dr. Teege in whose article 'Borneo Bound' (Chamaerops 17) the mistake appeared, for pointing it out. Me, I'm taking 100 lines. M.G.

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