Palm Growing in the North-West of England
The north-west of England is not the first place
one thinks of in relation to palms, but as George Oaks writes, there
are a number that can grow there, and tells us about his successes
George Oaks, 57 Abbey Road, St Mary´s, Cheshire WA3 IEP, U.K.
Chamaerops No.42 - 2001
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Picture 1: A palm imposter.
Picture 2: Ensete ventricosum, the Abessinian Banana.
Picture 3: Mature Hedyscepe with unripe fruit.
Picture 4: A young Coconut palm.
Many years ago, while on holiday in Italy, I became
interested in palms. I picked up a few seeds, which were scattered
over the ground beneath most of the trees, and put them in my pocket
thinking, "I´ll give them a try." That was 25 years
I forgot about the seeds, two Phoenix canariensis and one Chamaerops
humilis, until the following year when I was cleaning out a lot
of old pots from my greenhouse. It was a quite cold February day
and very frosty. I was looking at a broken pane of glass with a
corner missing when I noticed this grass-like leaf about two inches
high sticking up from the soil in one of the pots. It was thick
with ice. I left it alone, just to see if it would grow. It did!
It turned out to be the Chamaerops, and I am pleased
to say it is still with me. It is now over five feet, two inches
tall with a spread of over three feet, and a nice, thick, yellow-green
trunk. I keep it to a single trunk just like its parents in the
main street of Pompei, "the dead city." It is growing
outside in a raised bed along with my Trachycarpus fortunei.
The two Phoenix grew the following spring. I left
one outside and lost it, but the other is still with me. It grew
very slowly, but is now about eight feet tall with a one foot trunk.
It is kept outside all year except when the temperature falls below
zero; then it is housed in my conservatory. Being too heavy to lift,
it is in a large tub with rope handles bought from the local supermarket,
which makes it very easy to drag.
The Chamaerops, now over 25 years old, flowered
for the first time this year. Another is 30 years old but smaller,
probably because it came without roots from a building site in Spain.
This one also flowered, but seeds were not produced, making me believe
they are both the same sex. I have two others, one a yellow-leaved
form named "Volcano" that will possibly reach five feet
in another 50 years, and a blue-leaved form about which I know nothing.
The 30 or more year-old plant, although only 18 inches tall, is
the most beautiful palm I have, being in almost perfect shape. Coming
from the wild, it takes no looking after at all, and I think it
is just happy to be alive with roots again. (It took two years for
it to grow them again.)
The rest of my collection, all of which are grown
from seed, include Queen palm, Butia Capitata, Livistona australis,
Washingtonia filifera and robusta, Rhopalostylis sapeda, Chamaerops
costaricana, Sabal minor, and, if they germinate, Jubea chilensis
(they have been in pots a year and I am still waiting for some movement).
I have also a collection of three types of Cordylines, but this
year's frost has given them a beating.
All my palms, which are in pots, are kept outside
from March to November, and do better outside than in. The Chamaedoria
costaricana loves it outside in a shaded part where it can be blown
in the wind. It also likes the rain, and has gone from a £2.99
plant in a two and a half inch pot to a £299. plant growing
in a two feet, six inch pot. It has grown into a clump of palms
as wide as it is tall, at over three feet. It has not flowered yet,
but it looks as if it will this year. Lots of people want seeds
Lastly, like most people keen on palms, I have a
collection of Trachycarpus. I have maybe 100 or so T. fortunei,
both floppy and stiff-leaved versions. I find the stiff-leaved version
hardier to below -5°, and I intend to plant some in a wooded
area. I own to give it a bit of a different look. I also have one
T. takil, four T. nana, one T. martinanus, and one T. wagnerianus.
Of particular interest are the T. nana seedlings, which are kept
inside on the dry side. Just one was planted in the wettest, coldest,
windiest part of my garden. The one outside is the best colour,
and has withstood -10° this year for one night only, but -5°
for two or more nights, -1° for 10-15 nights, and rain for more
or less the last four or five months. The ground is well drained
and has six inches of old farmyard manure (I have horses and chickens)
placed around it each year, which does help. It looks in better
condition than a three feet high T. fortunei with a nine inch-thick
trunk after this bad winter, so the others are going outside for
good. Keep growing!
On 14-11-2001 Lee
Palm Growing in the North-West of England:
I would have thought that Washingtonia robusta
would be worth a go outside in Cheshire.
I had a 3footer which survived very well in Chester.
06-12-19 - 15:06GMT
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