Straight From The Harz

A special report about palm growing in Germany's Harz Mountains, not the warmest place in the world....
Peter Goldschmidt, 38640 Goslar, Germany
Chamaerops No.32 Autumn 1998

Inspired by the many good reports of EPS members I want to get some thoughts down on paper. As I am living in the beautiful imperial town of Goslar, situated on the fringe of the Harz Mountains, my palms have to cope with quite rough weather. The town lies some 250 m above sealevel, on the weather side of the Harz, which causes much rainfall and chilly days. The hard winter of 1996/97 brought night temperatures of minus 18 to 20 Celsius. All Araucarias that I know to be planted outside survived the frost without any shelter. But they have all turned brown and only the new sprouts in spring were bright green. The decorative value on the whole was badly damaged.

Because of this I could not make up my mind whether to plant the palms outside, especially as a heated shelter against the winter has also to be seen from a financial viewpoint. Therefore my collection of palms consists of tub-plants with all the well-known disadvantages. Merely putting them outside in the spring and back in again in the autumn is hard work. A specially converted barrow makes it a hit easier. The winter quarters of the palms is a brick shed which is kept at a suitable temperature of 10 Celsius. Because of lack of space a Phoenix roebelenii, which is considered more delicate, is placed there, too. It looks healthy, and I believe that Phoenix roebelenii is more robust than it is described in literature. Cycas circinalis and Cycas rumphii can cope with these temperatures, too. A lowering of temperature to almost zero degrees for two nights, when the heating broke down, the plants have survived without any harm.

To improve the conditions in the winter quarter, I installed artificial lighting. The very bright and durable NAV-lamp has the disadvantage that palms prefer a more shady position, like for example Rhopalostylis baueri, very quick suffered from burns. Despite accustoming the plants to the artificial light very slowly, I had to put up a shade. I had better experiences with the HQL de luxe lamp. It has a proportion of yellow light and is not as intense as the NAV. Encouraged by the reports in "Chamaerops" I put the plants into the Winter quarters quite late. Cycas revoluta, Butia capitata, Chamaerops and Trachycarpus stood outside in November, with night-time temperatures of minus seven degrees, totally covered with ice on the terrace without being harmed.

The winter was quite short, with minimum temperatures of twelve degrees below zero. And so at the beginning of February, I put outside the last palms that I had put inside the shed. They stand against a protected wall. March turned out to be a disappointment. It was colder than February. Putting the plants into new pots bad to be delayed till April, that brought temperatures of about 10 Celsius. But May started with summery temperatures and fortunately it stayed like that.

Finally, I have a question: A compact Chamaerops is being offered with the variety-name "Vulcano". I can't get anywhere with that name and would like to find out the exact botanical name and the origin of the plant. I hope that some palm lover can help me!

The exact botanical name of your Chamaerops is Chamaerops humilis The form "Volcano" is not of any botanical significance. It is said to have originated from the Island of Vulcano, one of the Liparian Islands north of Sicily. T.S.


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