The History of Howeia

(page 4)

The Kentia palm industry was interrupted by the two great world wars, but apart from these setbacks, the palm from Lord Howe Island maintained its status position as the best indoor palm of all. Its long stems, elegantly arched fronds and dark green leaflets made it extremely attractive. Also, because Lord Howe Island is situated at a latitude of 302S, it has a mild, temperate climate, and the palms thrive in conditions of low light, temperature and humidity. They are better suited to indoor European conditions than other palms with more tropical origins.

The main European centre for the growing of the Kentias shifted in the late 19th century from England to Belgium but in recent years Holland has emerged as one of the principal European suppliers. Henk van Staalduinen became involved in the early 1980s, and developed the industry in the Westland area of Holland, though associated growers are now established suppliers of Kentias in other parts of the country. Henk works closely with a dedicated group of nurserymen who have pioneered many new techniques to produce some of the best quality Kentias in the world. I spent two weeks travelling around the nurseries, meeting the owners and looking at their operations.

The view in each greenhouse is impressive wall-to-wall Kentias, row after row of palms in all stages of production, all plants in each stage being identical in size and colour. With their long experience in greenhouse production of vegetables and cut flowers, the Dutch nurserymen have quickly established the methods and techniques to produce outstanding Kentia palms. Moreover, they have formed an association, which regularly meets to discuss problems, and new techniques. This cooperation has fast-tracked their success, and ensures that all the output from the region is of top quality.

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