Exotics in a Windy Seaside Garden

(page 2)

Next came the winter of 95/96, where the Chamaerops was to be left sitting in its tub in the garden, while the others enjoyed slightly greater luxury in the shed. The shed is at the bottom of the garden and is not heated in any way, apart from the sun in the winter (south facing windows) and has air circulating through large gaps around the door. It was mainly for protection from frost and snow but the temperatures in there did fall to several degrees below freezing. The actual minimum temperature we had for the whole of that winter was -5.5øC (a frost on 29/12/95) after a couple of days with similar temperatures below freezing (the maximum temperatures also below freezing). Later that winter, near the end of February '96 came a short period of snow and very strong winds. Reports were of the winds having a chill factor of -15øC (which of course had the freedom of our garden). We also lost our electricity, due to the gales, for much of the first day. Slowly but surely, summer arrived (how many UK readers remember summers?!!) and the palms began their recovery. Of all the ones in the shed, all were fine and were then taken outside for the summer. The Chamaerops was exactly the same as it was the year before, but soon suckers started to appear (which have been left on).

In June that year I decided to get a Musa basjoo followed by a Chameadorea radicalis. Both went straight out into the ground. In September I attended Martin's 'garden party' and collected a few more seedlings. Those were; Trachycarpus wagnerianus, Caryota 'himalaya', Chamaerops humilis (blue form) and Archontophoenix 'Illawarra'. So, how did they all fare in the winter of 96/97...? As usual, the seedlings and smaller palms entered the comfort of the shed, whereas all the others were on trial with full-on winter conditions. The Musa basjoo was planted fairly near the house and surrounded by large shrubs and a fence on all but one side. The Chameadorea was planted on the other side of the garden, also in a sheltered place and when the first frosts arrived was wrapped up in bubble-wrap (the sort used for insulating greenhouses). The Musa basjoo was left alone for the first frosts and consequently died off (they were very light frosts). It had already received some degree of damage from winds.

A fairly mild, but ominous September and October provided little cause for alarm, but again, winds did tend to reach their peak at around that time (recalling that the famous 1987 hurricane of south-east England happened in October!). From a period of 26th December-11th January 1998 came some really quite severe weather (by our standards anyway) which involved temperatures struggling to reach a degree or two above freezing. This was accompanied by heavy snow which lay on the ground for much of that period. -3.8øC was the lowest temperature recorded for that winter and all the palms in the shed survived well apart from one. The loser of that trial was to be the Archontophoenix 'Illawarra' sadly. The Chameadorea was more or less unscathed, with allowance for some regular wind-battering. The wind did result in the loss of two leaves at one point, but thankfully my C. radicalis has maintained slow but steady growth through all weathers and these were eventually replaced. Only two changes happened that summer, one being that my Butia capitata was still growing as strong as ever and was moved into a bigger pot. The other was the not so daring planting out of my T. fortunei. This had a fairly wind-free position at the end of the garden, next to a fence. As a small plant, less than a foot in height at the time, it didn't get bothered that much by wind. The banana eventually re-appeared around the end of June and was watered regularly but still hardly even reached a couple of feet before it was in need of protection yet again. Upon arrival of the first cold spell, the seedlings again returned to the shed and the banana was wrapped up and so too was the C. radicalis. The C. radicalis was also given extra protection from the wind in the form of a green-mesh windbreak. The T. fortunei was to be left to display its cold-hardiness for all the neighbours to see. It was great to be able to point out a clump of lush green leaves in the middle of winter to people with a garden full of brown twigs!

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