Letters

Chamaerops No.22, Spring Edition 1996

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American Palm Fans Respond
I reply to the letter from Craig Snell, Chamaerops 21. Although a new member of The European Palm Society, I have, for the past 13 years been growing 'hardy exotics' in the garden. Sabal palmetto was one of my first palm purchases about 6 years ago - a baby specimen bought through the post from The Palm Centre, London. It went straight out in a small pot onto the patio table for its first summer though I pampered it for its first winter by bringing it indoors and placing it in a cool bedroom on the windowsill. The next summer it went out again onto the patio table but when winter came, it was on its own! I found it a sheltered corner where it survived very well. Being repotted about twice it had come through four winters outdoors and I felt it was now big enough to be planted permanently in the ground - which I did last autumn. The terrible winter we have just had brought us many nights as low as -10°C, and not getting above freezing during the day. On inspection this morning it had a chunky, hairy 8" trunk with 8 very damaged, spotty brown leaves but a lovely new leaf growing in the centre! Last year I bought a baby specimen of Rhapidophyllum hystrix - the Needle palm - which is still being well looked-after, it being its first winter here. Again I shall put it out on the patio table before very long, but if next winter threatens to be as bad as the last, I may bring it indoors for the season. Finally, though I have never lost a Cordyline during the past 13 years of growing them, many I had in pots, and even 3 large mature specimens growing in the ground didn't make it through the winter. However another 4 did come through, plus one small one growing at the base of a large specimen. lt really did surprise me how bad this last winter has been.
Linda Bate, Merseyside

And Again...
This is my reply to Craig Snell who looks for other members cultivating cold hardy American palms. I grow different kinds of palms and one of them is Sabal palmetto. It is only about 70cm (about 2ft) and was planted at the beginning of April 1995. It grows very slowly. Last winter was a very long one. I protected the Sabal with a plastic cover, and the roots with leaves. So the palm was dry and sheltered from the chilly north and east winds. There was no watering or heating; only the sun made my little 'greenhouse a bit warmer, however, the plant has suffered no damage. I live in a very mild area of Germany, in the Rhine Valley and the lowest temperature we had last winter was one night when it fell to -9°C. However, we had a total of 60 nights and 7 days when the temperature stayed below zero Celsius. In the other corners of my garden, the Trachycarpus do not see the sun for the entire winter; even so they show no damage though we had several days with freezing rain. Additionally there are 4 Trachys only 20cm high. I completely covered them, again, no damage. My (protected) Washingtonia filifera suffered from moisture damage and though I had to cut off the browned leaves and I am sure it will pull through. Last year I collected a lot of Sabal palmetto seed in the U. S. and planted them in the garden at the beginning of April, without heating. Six months later, in October, there were many little Sabal palms. Some of them I moved into pots; the others stayed where they were. These are still covered with leaves. I will let you know how they are in due course. Many greetings to all members from:
Bernd Schnell, Oberhausen, Germany

And Finally...
I want to give an answer to the enquiry by Craig Snell (Chamaerops 21) about American fan palms. I have a small but thriving Sabal minor planted in summer of '92 when it had 2 leaves of 10cm. It now has 4 more with the largest at 25cm. This little Sabal has never suffered any damage because it is easy to cover in frosty periods. Last winter it sustained 4 days with temperatures between -2°C by day and -13°C by night protected only by mulch and a cardboard box. During this same period all my other palms suffered in their shelters because I did not use thermostatically controlled heaters (set to 0°C) as I normally do. These other palms are Trachycarpus fortunei. Phoenix canariensis, Jubaea chilensis, Butia capitata, Chamaerops humilis all from 3 to 5 winters in the garden and all between 10-150cm tall. This winter even a small Jubaea suffered, losing its inner leaves, but the Sabal minor was untouched. The only problem with them I think is we don't have hot enough summers for it to produce more than two leaves annually. This winter in our region was the coldest for 14 years with the longest period of day-frost since records began. If anyone would like to make contact my address is Bleichstr. 27, D-63526 Erlensee, Germany. Fax ++49 6183 900017. E-mail AvStraaten@aol.com or 100641.506@compuserve.com. Thanks!
Andre van Straaten

Post Winter Report #1
This winter has not been a kind one, so now that we have reached the time of year when winter damage to exotic plants becomes apparent I thought I'd give you an update on how my palms etc. have withstood its ravages. The minimum air temperature in my garden was -5.4°C; ground temperature probably in the region of -9°C; snowfall above average, and many days of cold nor'easterly winds. All the palms planted in the ground have weathered the winter with no signs of damage. These are Jubaea, Butia, Trachycarpus, Chamaerops and Trithrinax. (Alas my Brahea succumbed, not to the cold, but to being eaten by a friend's dog). The only protectiomn given consisted of a few handfuls of straw stuffed into their crowns. As far as the other exotics in the garden go, there was no damage to any Eucalyptus, Hebe, other New Zealand natives such as the small Cordyline australis but my Acacia dealbata was badly burnt. My large variegated Phormium tenax has survived well, though it looked very sick on the coldest nights. The containerized plants all under my open-fronted verandah (south facing), had to put up with blown-in snow, subzero temperatures and frozen pots. They all survived except 4 Moroccan Phoenix dactylifera seedlings. They are Dicksonia antarctica, Jubaea (small), Oleander, Serenoa repens, Agaves, Trachycarpus 'sikkimensis' (seedling), Washingtonia filifera (outer fronds killed), Sabal minor (slight damage), Norfolk Island pine (some damage), Phoenix canariensis (5 years old), and small New Zealand Phoenix canariensis seedlings (no damage) . These latter palms are perhaps the most surprising, together with a Nikau palm (Rhopalostylis sapida) which sailed through. It happily survived against the back wall near the 'N. Z. P. C.' seedlings though under the frond protection of the Dicksonia. I may have to revise my thoughts about the cold-resistance of this mainland variety Nikau palm. It shows distinct promise, even as a three-fronded youngster! All in all, there have been no real disasters this winter, and some pleasant surprises, and this, in about the coldest winter we are ever likely to get here in Westcliff-on-Sea.
Charles Jackson

Post Winter Report #2
In the latest edition of Chamaerops you invited readers to write in and state how their plants coped with the winter weather. We live at the edge of the village of Goodleigh in North Devon in south west England. On a very clear day we can just see the coast where the Bristol Channel joins the Atlantic, but we are not near the sea but many miles inland, up in the hills. Despite the fact that we are situated on reasonably high ground we still experience considerably warmer temperatures than the higher hills of Exmoor, just a few miles away. We have some frost every winter but this is usually confined to just a few nights. This last winter was different with many frosty nights and a dusting of snow. I have noticed however that the duration of these cold spells is much shorter than in many other areas of Britain, and the average overall winter temperature if much higher. This, plus the high rainfall and humidity makes for very good growing conditions for many palms and exotics with growth continuing, albeit slowly, throughout the winter. We moved here from a neighbouring village in October 1987, planted some small Trachycarpus and Phoenix canariensis and then almost gave up the battle with the compacted heavy soil and the enormous weeds and concentrated our efforts on mmore or less rebuilding the house. Things remained that way for a further two years and then we began the task of starting to create a garden and of course it had to contain lots of palms and exotics.
The ground was so hard we had to begin planting with a pickaxe but gradually things moved ahead and much is now semi-mature and growing well. there are now numerous Trachycarpus between 2 and lOft tall, dozens of Cordylines up to 12ft and branching, several Phoenix canariensis, 2 Chamaerops, one small Butia, numerous Yuccas (in flower on New Year's Day), Hibiscus, many varieties of Phormium and Eucalyptus, Musa basjoo, Monstera deliciosa, Acacia dealbata )'Mimosa' - 20ft in 5 years and in full flower in mid-February.), Pomegranate, Cupressus sempervirens (Pencil Cedar), Cyperus, Callistemon 'Bottle Brush', Datura, Fascicularia and Opuntia cactus. At the time of writing it is mid-February and this means that in this region it is extremely unlikely that there will be much more in the way of frost in what remains of the winter, so it is time to take stock of any damage or losses. Providing winter protection is out of the question due to the number and size of the specimens and due to the fact that we want the garden to look nice throughout the winter; even so we lost little.
South-westerly gales toppled a tall Eucalyptus and broke many flower-laden branches from a Mimosa. Two tall-growing Opuntia cactus were damaged and possibly killed due to a combination of cold and wet, The Monstera suffered sever damage and is probably dead, but that was a gamble anyway. Datura suffered damage but will probably recover, Musa basjoo suffered damage to its above-ground growth but its larger 'trunks' survived. Everything else including all the Cordylines, the Phoenix canariensis and bright coloured Phormiums have come through without the slightest damage and many Trachycarpus have put on extra leaves during January and February. If we can grow these things in our exposed inland North Devon garden, just think what could grow in the more favoured coastal areas nearby. Yet all we see are a few tall Trachycarpus, probably planted by the Victorians, in unsuitable positions (ie. where their leaves get damaged by salt-laden gales) plus Cordylines and Phormiums everywhere. Later in the year we plan to add Cycas revoluta, Dicksonia, Olive, Citrus (lemon), and, on a south-facing wall, Bougainvillaea, to our collection.
Rev. Geof frey Squire, Goodleigh, Devon

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