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A Garden in Provence

by Daniel Carle, Route de Modene 604, 84330 Caromb, France

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Top row: 1) Agave sp. 2) Musa basjo 3) Cordyline
Bottom row: 4) Cycas revoluta 5) Butia capitata.
The photos were taken in early September 2000

Responding to the letter of B. Schnell (Chamaerops 37), I am sending a few photos of my "exotic" garden situated in Southeast France in Provence: between Avignon (30 km) and Mont-Ventroux (10 km). The altitude is about 190m, latitude 44°05'N and it is 90km from the Mediterranean Sea.

Showing palm enthusiasts gardens throughout European countries is, I think, an excellent idea. When I started to plant my first exotic plants, they consisted of an ordinary Yucca gloriosa in 1982 and four Trachycarpus fortunei in 1984. At this time they were 50cm in height; they are now about 5m tall and one plant fruits every year. Similarly, three Cordyline australis, 50cm when planted in 1987, are now 5m tall and blossom every year.

In 1988, near the Trachycarpus, I planted a small Washingtonia filifera (50cm). I have seen amazingly fast growth, and it now reaches about 7m tall and has a 4m trunk (circumference = 2,5m). It is planted in a sheltered position (lots of sun, sheltered from the Mistral and cold winds). It has withstood about -10°C in winter. Between the Trachycarpus and Washingtonia is a Brahea armata, 40cm tall when planted in 1989, 1,70m now with 50cm trunk. I made the mistake of planting it under a fig tree, creating a too shady position in summer, but this hasn't prevented it from growing well, though more slowly than the Washingtonia, of course.

My other plantings are a Phoenix canariensis in 1987 (50cm), which is 2m tall now; three Butia capitata planted in the early 90's; and another T. fortunei (but in a windy position). After a difficult start due to the cold Mistral when young, it's now very hardy. All these palms have withstood -10°C since 1987 (three or four times).

More recently I've tried to plant some different palms, and some have also withstood -10°C, including: Jubaea chilensis (50cm tall); Brahea edulis (40cm); Trithrinax acanthocoma (40cm); Nannorrhops ritchiana (25cm); two Trachycarpus wagnerianus (30cm); Chamaerops humilis (50cm); and Sabal mexicana, Sabal minor and Sabal palmetto. All these plants are relatively young and not protected in winter. These other plantings have withstood -7°C (lightly protected): Brahea brandeegei (50cm); Trithrinax campestris (20cm); Rhapis excelsa (80cm); Phoenix roebelenii (60cm); Livistona decipiens (50cm); and Butia yatay. One Syagrus romanzoffiana (1,50m) failed at -7°C, but I planted another one the following spring.

This spring I tried some more exotic palms (all about 50cm high), in very sheltered positions: Phoenix sylvestris; Brahea dulcis; two Phoenix reclinata; Livistona australis, L. chinensis, L. decipiens; Cycas revoluta; and the more delicate Parajubaea cocoides. This one will probably need a heating cable in winter. Around these palms I planted other exotics: Some Eucalyptus (E. gunnii, E viminalis, E. dalrympleana); one Abutilon megapotamium; lots of agaves, yuccas, opuntias; a Musa basjoo; one Kumquat (Citrus fortunella or Fortunella margarita); one Citrus sp. (Japanese lemon tree); and two Citrus satsuma (Japanese mandarin trees).

All these plants are rather cold hardy and thrive well in this Mediterranean climate, but I'm waiting for a severe winter to give their cold hardiness a real test. In Provence, the main problem for exotic plantings are the frosts in winter, usually between -6°C and - 10°C, depending on the winter; and eventually a very hard frost , occurring about every 30 years, like in 1956 or 1985, dipping to temperatures around - 17°C. Apart from the Mistral, which can blow all year, another problem is the dryness in summer, which necessitates frequent watering for young palms. I hope that palm enthusiasts will be inspired with this news from Provence.

Readers Comments:

On 16-12-2001 johan wrote:
It looks you have all ready a big collection but tritrinax campestris , where did you find this tree i am looking with no luck so far.

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