Juania australis at 53º N Latitude
by David Robinson, Baron's Brae, Ceanchor
Road, Baily, Co. Dublin, Ireland
Chamaerops No. 43-44, published online
on this article:
Click here to read them or to add your own.
Pictures: The elusive Juania australis, growing
happily in Ireland.
'Take this palm, Juania australis. It won't survive
with you; it doesn't even grow at Tresco in the Isles of Scilly,
but try it anyway. ' These were the parting words and friendly challenge
from Chris Bayliss, Curator of the Royal Horticultural Society's
Gardens at Rosemoor, Devon, England, as I left following a brief
visit to the Gardens in September 1995. The young plant had been
raised from seed collected in Chile by Lady Anne Berry, who had
donated her three hectare renowned garden at Rosemoor to the Royal
Back in Ireland I tried to find out something about
my new acquisition, a small, pinnate-leafed plant 40 cm high in
a 20 cm pot. Information was nonexistent in my normal reference
books, such as the New Royal Horticultural Society Dictionary of
Gardening and W.J. Bean's Trees and shrubs hardy in the British
Isles, and information was sparse in several books on palms. I did
learn, however, that Juania australis is native of the Juan Fernandez
(Robinson Crusoe's) island, but is now practically extinct there.
I planted the small palm in a sheltered location
about 1 m from a 1.5 m high wall. The plant gets some morning and
evening sun but is partly protected from midday sun by a 5 m high
Dodonea viscosa 'Purpurea' to the south and from north winds by
a 10 m high self seeded Eucalyptus cordata. Planted in September
1995, the Juania has grown well and has shown no signs of cold or
wind damage throughout this period. It is now about 2.5 m tall with
leaves up to 2.2 m in length.
Although I had been warned that the Juania was rare
and difficult to grow, I gave it only the standard treatment afforded
to all other trees and shrubs in my garden. The roots at the bottom
of the pot were carefully disentangled and spread out in the planting
hole, but no fertilizer was applied, either at planting or at any
time afterwards. The small plant was kept free from competing weeds,
mainly by careful spot treatment with the herbicide glyphosate,
and the ground was not disturbed to avoid any root injury. No supplementary
watering in summer or frost protection in winter was given.
I do not use insecticides or fungicides on any ornamental plants
as these are generally unnecessary under our cool, temperate climatic
conditions. In any case, the Juania showed no signs of pests or
diseases and was completely trouble free.
As can be seen from my web site www.earlscliffe.com,
my garden is situated on a peninsula just north of Dublin, Ireland.
The Hill of Howth rises to a height of 180 m to the north and provides
important shelter from cold northerly winds. On the south side the
land extends down to high watermark. This fortunate situation along
with the influence of the warm North Atlantic drift is responsible
for the favourable microclimate. Air frosts occur regularly, generally
between early December and mid April. The lowest winter minimum
is usually about -4º C but, in December 1995, three months after
planting, the temperature fell to -7.5º C, the lowest temperature
recorded here since records began in 1969. The recent 2000/01 winter
was also exceptionally severe when the temperature fell to -7º C
in December and did not rise above - 3º C for three days. These
low temperatures had no apparent adverse effect on the young plant.
Because of the proximity of the sea, summer temperatures
are moderate, seldom exceeding 25º C. The absolute maximum recorded
since 1969 is 27.5º C in August 1995. Average annual rainfall is
a moderate 650 mm spread fairly evenly throughout the year and periods
of drought are rare.
The soil is derived from Cambrian shale and quartzite
and contains approximately 25% clay and 4.5% organic matter in the
top 8 cm. It is mostly acid to neutral (pH 5.0 - 6.5), in contrast
to the alkalinity of most of County Dublin.
At present, Juania australis is growing more vigorously
than any other member of the family Palmae in my garden. The Chusan
Palm (Trachycarpus fortunei) is normally accepted as the most hardy
palm growing in Ireland, but its speed of growth is less than that
of Juania. I also grow the Mediterranean Fan Palm (Chamaerops humilis)
and the Chilean Wine Palm (Jubaea chilensis), but these and other
genera, such as Brahea and Butia, are slow growing.
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