Palms in the Channel Islands
An interesting look at palm life in the Channel
Islands, off the coast of France. The palms are indeed there, if
you know where to find them.
Michael A.F. Carter, 52 Golden Avenue, West Kingston, N. East Preston,
Littlehampton, West Sussex BN16 1QX
on this article:
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Above: A large Phoenix canariensis at Candie
Gardens, St. Peter Port, Guernsey.
Over the years I have been fortunate enough to visit
Jersey on a number of occasions, but have been to the neighboring
island of Guernsey less frequently. Jersey has a mid-winter mean
temperature of 6.5°C /44°F with a summer high of 18°C/64°F.
Although the island is heavily influenced by the mild Gulf Stream,
it lies only a dozen miles off the Cherbourg peninsular and can
be influenced by the Continental land mass to the east, under certain
weather conditions, which can give colder snaps and greater heat
waves than these mean temperatures would suggest. Guernsey lies
some 20 miles further west and has a slightly more oceanic climate,
offering milder winters and cooler summers.
Sub-tropical vegetation has long been planted in the
islands, raised from cuttings and seeds dropped off by passing ships
visiting more exotic climes. The important holiday industry has
further promoted the growing of palms and similar exotic plants.
Cordyline australis and Trachycarpus fortunei, for example, appear
everywhere, and 20 feet high Chamaerops humilis can be seen in the
grounds of Saumarez Manor in South-East Jersey near the capital,
St. Helier. Young tree ferns have also been planted in the Howard
Davidson Memorial Park in St. Helier.
Severe frosts in the winter of l986/87, however, decimated
the Cordyline population and changed the local landscape in Jersey
for a number of years before the new suckers could revive and grow
back to the 15 to 20 foot specimens that are seen everywhere today
. Phoenix Canariensis, the Canary Island Date Palm, was not able
to recover, however. I recall a beautiful specimen growing amongst
the picturesque cottages of local granite behind St. Brelade's Bay.
This Canary Island Date was a magnificent specimen around 20/25
feet high. The owner told me that she and her husband had driven
back from Alicante some 25 years earlier with two young palms. One
was planted in the front garden and one in the back. The palm in
the front had survived, but was badly damaged by the frost of the
winter of l986/87. It was showing signs of recovery when it was
blown down by the hurricane of October, l987. The owner said that
its trunk had become like jelly. I recall younger Phoenix canariensis
at Mt. Sohier and near La Corbiere, which also disappeared around
After a succession of mild winters, however, the Canary
Island Date has reappeared along the front at Gorey, where a number
of handsome trees are growing, and at St. Aubyn, where some of the
local Tracycarpus have taken on the dimensions of Washingtonias.
There is also a strong Washingtonia filifera growing by the entrance
of the St. Peter Garden Center near Jersey Airport.
As stated earlier, my visits to Guernsey have been
less frequent. However, I recall seeing two large Phoenix canariensis
growing at Candie Gardens in St. Peter Port. A brief visit in 1991
showed that at least one had survived and was still flourishing,
together with a smaller Canary Date, although its large partner
and some citrus trees growing along a walled area had disappeared.
I was fortunate enough to spend two days in September
of 1999 on a business trip to Guernsey, and was able to confirm
that the magnificent Phoenix canariensis still thrives in Candie
Gardens. There are also a number of smaller palms of the same species
in neighboring gardens and along the sea-front of St. Peter Port.
A huge Datura bush, plus numerous species of normally winter-tender
Fuchsias growing in gardens nearby, testified further to the local
climate on Guernsey - situated as it is just the vital few miles
further out to sea, away from the Continental influence of the European
mainland with its periodic winter plunges of temperature.
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