by John Kenahan, Goring, U.K. Chamaerops No.47, published online 25-06-2003
- Left: Native to vast plains like this one in Corrientes, Argentina, which
occasionally experiences flooding, Butia yatay is always found on well drained and well aerated, sandy soils.
Photo: Martin Gibbons and Tobias W. Spanner
- Right: Rain, rain, rain and more of the same!
Photos: John Kenahan
Those were the circumstances that faced those of us living in the British Isles in the winter
and spring of 2000/2001 and which produced the highest rainfall since records began over 300 years ago. Inevitably
such conditions caused great damage and many people were forced to abandon their homes to the rising flood waters.
In this article I shall concentrate on the horticultural implications of the Deluge . . . and
how it affected the garden of yours truly. This fairly small garden, which measures around 100 ft. by 50 ft.,
is situated on the West Sussex plain, an area that runs (roughly) from Shoreham in the east to Chichester in
the west and lies south of the South Downs, a pleasant area of Downland, which I should explain for non-British
readers actually means upland! "Downland", or the shorter form "Downs", when spelt with
a capital "D" refers to chalk upland in southern England for they are a series of hills.
On purchasing the property in 1993, I soon removed most of the existing garden contents, which
included a small vegetable patch, an even smaller "herbaceous border", and some out-of-control conifers,
and gradually began planting my kind of plants, which include Rhododendrons, various "exotics", succulents
and especially - wait for it - those most wonderful and essential jewels in the crown of any exotic garden -
PALMS! The effect of the Great Deluge on the palms and other exotics in the garden was very interesting and
informative, for in addition to the constant rain, there was also flooding over most of the garden for two days
due to a drainage ditch bursting its banks because a nearby culvert had become blocked with debris, mainly consisting
of twigs and leaves, but fortunately the flood water was neither contaminated by sea-water or even dirty water,
which happened less than a mile away.