City Oasis

The city is Toulon, and the oasis, the city garden of Alain Jamet. What he has achieved in just a few years is little short of amazing. An inspirational article for all of us palm growers. Alain also includes a step-by-step guide for all those who would like to strip their Trachy's.
Alain Jamet, Toulon France
Chamaerops No.26 Spring 1997

Recently stripped Trachycarpus fortunei

Toulon is the southernmost town of the Côte d'Azur; it has also 300 days of sunshine each year, with the Mistral" and a prevailing easterly wind which sets the scene of this brief meteorological introduction. Ten years ago, I discovered this corner of paradise, ideally situated on the slopes of Mont Faron which overlooks some the most beautiful countryside in Europe. My home "Howea" has a small garden of 420 square meters nestling in a park of 7 acres, blessed with a noteworthy past associated with palm-trees (Butiagrus, Brahea, Butia, Phoenix of a hundred years' standing). Unfortunately, this park was sacrificed to the construction of 60 villas . . . mine included!

My garden was begun in 1989 with seedlings of Trachycarpus fortunei potted out five years previously. They measured 40 cm/16", leaves included. Today their trunks are 3 meters high and the leaves reach over the roof of my house. In my choice of plants I gave preference to the most commonly known sorts in our region, whose hardiness had been proved:
Trachycarpus, Washingtonia, Brahea, Butia, Sabal, followed by Syagrus, Phoenix roebelenii, Trithrinax, Ceroxylon, Chamaedorea, Howea ... Today "Howea" contains 90 species planted out in the garden and forty in pots, in total 625 palms ranging from 20 cm/8" to 8 m/25ft. Crazy? I don't think so, because, after having visited some of the palm gardens in California, there is no doubt, I have room for many more! More seriously, the essential lesson to be drawn from this site is that it is situated in an exceptional microclimate allowing the "impossible": Prichardia hillebrandii, Rhopalostylis, Bismarckia, Ravenea, Howea Hedyscepe and Archontophoenix serenely surviving winters under the protection of Trachycarpus and Washingtonia. This winter, in Toulon, in one night it froze fourteen hours down to -3ūC, the Caryota urens (8 meters) and two Archontophoenix cunninghamiana (5 meters) suffered severe burning because they had no protecting canopy. The smaller versions of the same species, protected by the Trachycarpus and Washingtonia, suffered no damage. I am convinced that, in regions with more rigorous climates, clumps of hardy palms provide ideal protection for the more delicate species . . . and then, why a few isolated palms in a garden ? In endemic sites they live in colonies . . . so, plant palms without hesitation, even in the smallest of gardens, that would be the assurance of exceptional acclimatisation and a wonderful future for PALMS!

At "Howea", the Trachycarpus have an unusual look. Four years ago, I developed a special cleaning technique. Begin peeling the base of the trunk by slitting the fibres horizontally with a sharp knife, always at the base of the back of the petiole so as not to damage the trunk. Then, cut the base free at the bottom of the trunk. Repeat this operation at the base of the next petiole. As the peeling progresses, the rings are further apart and more tender. Beware of false moves ! The newly-exposed trunk is white but it will turn green with the effect of photosynthesis after two weeks. (In summer, protect the trunk from direct sunlight throughout this period in order to obtain a nice rich green colour) .I am convinced that this peeling in no way affects the hardiness of the plant.

For each one of us, the ideal aesthetic of a palm tree is different: but imagine your Trachys transformed in this way, planted to lean over your swimming pool or serving to hold up your hammock. Even in London, Berlin or Strasbourg, it could be the beginning of a tropical paradise! I am at your disposal for more information and tips, or if you follow the advice of Mr Lembreghts (Chamaerops issue no. 25) and come to admire the Butiagrus of Parc Saint Jean, "Howea" is only 40m away, so do not hesitate, ring the bell at the gate, you will always be welcome.

 

  13-12-19 - 05:23GMT
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