First Steps in Exotica
Personal experiences on the rocky road to palmdom.
Silvia Knödler, Oberwilerstrasse 25, CH-4103, Bottmingen,
Chamaerops No.25 Winter 1996/97
As a relatively new member of the European Palm Society
I read my first couple of "Chamaerops" issues with great
interest and joy, and I would just like to tell all the authors
how very helpful and inspiring their articles are for me. It is
so good to know that there are other people around with the same,
ah, how should I put it: hobby? Or is-it already an obsession?
Until now I made all my experiments on my own, often
enough feeling somewhat guilty towards the plants which I left out
in the cold and also even towards the environment because I thought
it a bit weird, as if to forcibly transplant complete strangers
into a foreign world. The only encouragement and ideas (and many
plants) I got from another palm enthusiast in southern Switzerland,
Mr. Carl Schell, who has a fantastic exotic park around his house.
I must admit that at first I sometimes doubted his words when he
told me which plants I could also try, since the climate there in
Ticino is, of course, milder than ours. But all his plants survived
here well, since compared to other regions north of the Alps - our
climate is not too bad and fortunately some plants are hardier than
we think or know.
In the vicinity of Basel the temperatures are usually
higher than those of the surrounding regions (tulips and other early
spring flowers, for example, bloom here about two weeks earlier
than 20 km around us), with in general not too much rain, and snow
is quite rare. Last winter, however, was long and cold like everywhere
in Europe with below zero temperatures for quite a while (sometimes
as low as -9ûC), and also the winter before had some very cold nights,
during a few even as low as -12ûC. A clump of three Livistona chinensis
(which were planted by a gardener in the course of a garden-rearrangement,
who mistook them for Trachycarpus fortunei) survived both winters
albeit with no leaves left. The first winter I wrapped them in some
layers of plastic. Too many and too tightly, as I discovered later,
because all the leaves were destroyed by mildew, but new green spear
tips appeared. Then last winter I simply covered the ground around
the stems with about 10 cms of fallen leaves and put some fir twigs
around the new spears. Early January 1996 the plants between them
had eight still green leaves but they all turned brown later that
month as it got colder. In spring I transplanted them to a hopefully
better place and now hope that in the future they will have more
than just a few leaves each. Now as I write this, November 1996.
each stem has only one leaf and one spear tip, due to the bad summer,
With the same method of protection (only during a
short period of freezing rain did I cover some of the plants - however,
none of the T. fortunei - with plastic) the following plants survived
last winter too: 8 Trachycarpus fortunei (various sizes, from 10
cm to nearly 3m), I T. wagnerianus, I Chamaerops humilis, 2 Nerum
oleander, I Cordyline australis (around the stems of these last
2 I additionally wrapped a rush mat), I Italian cypress, various
Camellia japonica, I Tasmanian fern tree, Dicksonia antarctica,
and some Aloes, Agave americana and Opuntias. A fig tree (about
10 years old and always full of edible fruit), a Eucalyptus gunnii
(about 5 years old and now nearly 10m in height) and one young Acacia
dealbata got no protection at all and were undamaged.
Unfortunately the leaves of a Cycas revoluta (which
outgrew its previous winter space in the house) turned brown and
so far has not grown new ones. However, as the trunk (about 20 cm
high and 20 cm in diameter) 'is still firm I hope that it is not
dead and that perhaps next year it will get new leaves. I lost -one
lemon tree (home grown from a seed many years ago) and one small
kind of a Phoenix (with softer leaves than P canariensis or P. dactylifera)
received from Spain.
During this year I have planted I Butia capitata,
I Punica granatum, I Chamaedorea radicalis, I small home grown Phoenix
dactylifera and Sabal palmetto each, I Citrus ichangensis, I Albizia
and 2 more Oleander. Now, since all those previous articles in "Chamaerops"
have enhanced my palm addiction, my further wishes are huge (Washingtonia
filifera, Brahea armata, Phoenix canariensis - and others) and my
garden is tiny, I think I have to dig out some plants of which I
have several specimen, like Rhododendrons and Hibiscus syriacus.
I began already to give away smile hedge-roses which grew by a sheltered
wall where next spring I intend to plant a Chamaedorea metallica
and some Chamaedorea costaricana - a risk, I know, but the pot of
C. costaricana contains about 20 little palms I can try with a few
of them. Furthermore I hope to find some space for a Musa basjoo,
an Eryobotrya and a Fatsia japonica. I wonder whether this garden
will ever be finished!
Finally I have a question which perhaps somebody can
answer. As I said before, I have eight Trachycarpus fortunei of
various sizes. As the first one planted out about six yûears ago
survived its first winter well, I planted two more, very small Trachy's
which I received from a garden in southern Switzerland where they
grew 'wild'. They are now approx. 7 years old. I saw no difference
between them until this summer. One of them still looks lite all
other Trachy's in the garden. The new leaves - and only these -
of the other one, however, appear not only to be more compact and
have a silvery-white rim partially around the somewhat broader single
segments (simillar to a T. wagnerianus) but they are also rather
oval shaped (broad oval). The tips of the segments are rounder than
of the other Trachy's and the underside of the leaves is greyish-green.
And unlike all other Trachy's and the Waggy, the upper halves of
the first two new leaves that appeared alter the last winter were
damaged and turned brown. In comparison to the other plant of the
same age, the stem is somewhat shorter and thicker and the leaves
are straighter and tighter upright with shorter stalks. Its location
is southeastern, whereas the other one stands in a southwestern
position. Can this be the reason for the difference, or does someone
have another solution?
I now hope that this winter has a heart for us palm
freaks and that in spring we don't have to report too many losses.
13-07-20 - 14:55GMT
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