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Tobias W. Spanner, Tizianstr. 44, 80638 München, Germany

With spring well underway and the new gardening season already going at full steam, people are busy planting and replanting everywhere. The standard greenery most frequently available and used in gardens still accounts for most of the plantings of course, but you can see more and more palms and other exotics appearing everywhere, even in seemingly unsuitable areas deemed too frosty even by enthusiasts' standards. Just 10 years ago, garden centres all over northern Europe would not have been caught dead stocking palms for outdoor use, and even in the mild south of Europe the range was limited mainly to the local favourites Phoenix canariensis and Washingtonia robusta, and the odd Kentia or "Areca"-Palm, imported from Holland, incredibly enough.

Today, there is a wide range of cold hardy palms available not only from a growing number of specialist nurseries all over Europe, but also from the mainstream suppliers, who have discovered a viable business addition. It is no longer a surprise to find a Trachy or a Chamaerops in your local garden store in the north, and nurseries in Italy, France and Spain now grow and stock an increasing range of mouth-watering palms, including Brahea, Butia, Syagrus, Trithrinax and even an odd Jubaea.

Surprisingly, despite this growing interest in exotic plants and, more specifically, palms, membership numbers in the European Palm Society remain at a fairly constant level of 600 members plus a couple of hundred subscribers to the EPS website. Other palm societies, including the largest and most prestigious of them all, the International Palm Society, have actually seen a decrease in membership in recent years, even though interest in palms is constantly rising.

I would claim that the European Palm Society was and still is heavily responsible for this new exotic boom and is one of the forerunners in Europe of this new trend. Chamaerops, accordingly, is arguably one of the best sources of information for news in the palm world. So why is it, I ask myself, that our membership numbers do not profit from this growing interest? Perhaps part of the problem is that information can easily be accessed free from the Internet, causing many to think that spending £15/€23 a year in membership fees is an unnecessary expense. How can we involve those who get most of their information from free online sources in the EPS? Perhaps another problem is that, with palms so widely available at every local garden centre, people who buy a palm there today are not aware of the EPS and the wealth of information it could provide to them to help grow their new acquisition successfully. How can we get more garden centres and local nurseries to recognize that promoting the EPS to their customers will help further their sales of palms and other exotics with a minimum of additional effort? Every specialized palm nursery can probably tell numerous tales about people who call asking all sorts of questions about "a palm" they just purchased at one of these generic garden centres that came with no additional information-frequently even without a name.

I would claim that Chamaerops and the EPS website with its large archive deserve much more attention among new palm enthusiasts as a reliable source of firsthand information, and I hope that every member will promote it as such to friends and others interested in growing palms. Word of mouth is, after all, the best advertisement.

I hope many of you will be prompted to share your ideas on how to promote the EPS. Our Letters Page and the EPS forum on the web are yearning for your contributions. T.S.


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