Palm Trees of Lake Geneva

'A Life with Palms' would be a good alternative title for this excellent article by Nicolas Eracle. From early beginnings to a fully-fledged palm garden. Great stuff!
by Nicolas Eracle, Route de Brent 30, 1817 Brent/Montreux, Switzerland
Chamaerops No.39, Summer Edition 2000

Left: Brahea armata with Lake Geneva in the background
Right: Trachycarpus fortunei

I've been a member of the EPS for one year, and my passion for palm trees only grows. This is why I would like to present to you the area of Lake Geneva, where I reside, and where beautiful specimens of palm trees can be seen. Climatically, aside from the Ticino, south of the Alps, our area is the most privileged in Switzerland. The basin of Lake Geneva benefits from hot and sunny summers; in fact, Geneva is the sunniest city in Switzerland between May and September. The winters are often calm with little wind. On the downside, when fog sets in, it can last for many weeks, especially on the west half of the lake. This dull weather makes everything seem a little sad. Under this gray cover, however, the lake is able to retain the heat energy accumulated in the summer, and the temperature remains constant, just above zero. The springs and the autumns are often wet, but this is not an absolute rule. The average annual minimum in the area is between -8°C and -10°C depending on the location, which places us in zone 8. One notable exception was in 1985, when the temperature fell to -17°C on the edges of the lake.

As a child in Geneva, I liked to walk outside the city to admire the gardens. One day, I fell nose to nose with two superb Trachycarpus fortunei that were approximately 5 meters high. The passion was born! From that day on, my dream was to have my own house, a garden…and palm trees! Unfortunately, although there are beautiful Trachycarpus fortunei in Geneva, they are very rare, which is unfortunate as the climate is favorable for them. Lack of knowledge about the ability of many palms to resist cold makes people hesitant to plant them outside; let's hope that certain courageous people will show the way!

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