Cycad in Suburbia

(page 3)

The autumn was very mild and warm, in fact at times even going into December was very mild, but nevertheless I started to make early preparations for protection because as mentioned above I planned to do something that would not harm the plant in the process. This time it consisted of being surrounded on three sides with double walled clear polycarbonate plastic lashed together with household wire for extra rigidity and something to throw a cover over.

So at the end of November the plant was ready to he covered at a moment's notice, on one or two chillier nights I had rested a polystyrene square on the structure (the type fridges etc. come in), over cautious I know but now so simple to do. This was just as well, for what happened next must have surprised everybody, not least myself. The sudden change from very mild weather to bitterly cold Siberian weather as the NE winds swept in, and some parts of central Scotland suffered record lows of an unbelievable -29ūC! Throughout the whole winter the Cycad was virtually a prisoner under its cover of polystyrene and woolly blanket. On the rare occasions that the cover was not rock hard or under several inches of snow I would roll it back just to let some light and air to it and to see if all was well. By this time I knew that a cycad showed its displeasure almost immediately.

Although still cold I was relieved with the onset of early spring and it still looked glossy dark green. According to the. official local weather station at the Bidston observatory the Wirral experienced -6ūC and many days the temperature failed to rise above freezing point as the icy winds pegged temperatures down. On my own max-min thermometer I recorded lower temperatures than the official ones with several nights at -7.5ūC. Although these figures are nothing like the inland and highland temperatures quoted for Scotland, allied to their duration they prove my theory that Cycas revoluta will take a lot more frost then first believed.

Certainly mine was protected from wind chill and most importantly kept dry all winter, but considering the severity of the weather and the fact that it had changed its warm environment of the last 30 years or so for this, shows that it could be a very adaptable plant, though it's still very early days yet and it would not do to be complacent, however, time may prove Cycas revoluta to he nearly as hardy as, say, a Chamaerops humilis in a very warm sheltered position, though maybe needing extra frost protection in the most severe conditions.

Anyway with the terrible winter over, followed by an appalling spring, summer finally arrived and I found myself 'pot watching' again The first real warm spell, the mini heatwave of mid June, was enough to spring my Butia capitata into life hut no sign of growth to the Cycad. Mildly disappointed I got on with other things. Then in the next hot spell in July I became excited as I was almost certain new growth was imminent, the furry little tan crown in the centre that seemed to twist around to follow the course of the sun throughout the year appeared to he opening out and starting to swell, the older leaves were almost horizontal and then the definite sign I had been waiting so long for, the tan coloured crown seemed to pull back overnight to reveal the crowded tips of the new soft green leaves. In the warm weather that followed I soon bed a four inch spire in about one week.

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