Wind is the enemy of so many of the plants we
love to grow. Here, student Martin has tackled the problem head
on. by Martin Parker, 7 Haslemere Road, Seasalter,
Kent, UK Chamaerops No.32 Autumn 1998
I have been a palm enthusiast for just over three
years now after seeing a picture of a Dicksonia antarctica in a
Biology textbook. I since have had a desire to have exotica in the
back garden and have a thirst for knowledge in this area. I have
bought many of the 'recommended' species as well as several which
would be a bit more experimental. Another point of interest is that
I have kept records of rainfall, temperatures and air pressure in
our back garden since 1995. I shall use these records to show the
extremes that my plants have lived through, also giving an idea
of how wet the ground was during the colder spells.
The garden in question is the family back garden
and is located less than 200 metres from the sea. The soil type
here is predominantly London clay, which although is very thick
and not the most permeable of soils it is good for holding water
and has some nutrient value. The weather here in general is fairly
similar to that of much of the South East of England. We are in
the region receiving some of the lowest rainfall (nearby Margate
being similar to a desert in one year, with less than 250mm) and
although our summers can be very hot in this area (we had the highest
recorded temperature in the country one year, long term national
record used to be held by nearby Canterbury) we also can get extreme
winters. Temperatures rarely get excessively low themselves but
the main chill comes from the winds off the North Sea.
Our garden is not very sheltered. There are houses
all around which have their gardens border ours though apart from
a few fir trees in neighbouring gardens there is very little shelter.
One part in particular suffers from the wind and many plants, even
Buddlieas, look very scruffy and stunted in that area. Instead of
cutting off our neighbours and putting up lines of bamboo or huge
fir trees all around our garden I decided to take the wind as a
challenge, more than a problem.
Nothing was actually planted in the ground until
I actually plucked up the courage to do so two years ago. My first
plant was bought in early 1995, none other than a Chamaerops humilis
which I had been told was on offer at a nearby garden centre (even
to this day does the garden centre in question still sells Trachycarpus
fortunei as 'Chamaerops excelsa'!). This plant had apparently been
there for one winter already and just sat outside in a big black
pot. It was about 2 1/2 feet high when I bought it and it hasn't
grown very much since but has produced many suckers. It is known
that this area has been as cold as the safe minimum reported for
this species (-12øC) without the wind chill factor.
Later that year, following the discovery of the
Palm Centre and the vast knowledge of the manager there, I purchased
some more small plants. These were Trachycarpus fortunei, Jubaea
chilensis, Butia capitata and a Dicksonia antarctica. They were
only small seedlings with a few leaves and were the selection on
trial for our winter. They were placed in their pots in the garden
to benefit from outdoor conditions and enjoy the sun. All went fine
until I went away for a week to the Isle of Wight in August 1995.
During that week London recorded 35øC and I had concern for
my palms in the garden, which were the responsibility of my sister
at the time. When I returned, I found they had more or less dried
out, including the D. antarctica which had been more shaded than
the others. I drenched them and worked hard to revive them all.
It was to be the Jubaea chilensis that didn't make it past our summer.
The others recovered well from drying out, especially the Butia
which just grew as normal the whole time.