In the flooded area two specimens of Phoenix canariensis (1995 and 1997) were undamaged, although
one produced three inflorescences the following June whilst still very juvenile and only two metres tall. In
contrast, a Butia capitata (1996) which had flowered the previous two years did not produce a single inflorescence
but the foliage was fine and the strong growth (yes - Butias can be fast!) continues and this year it flowered
as normal. A specimen of Acoelorraphe wrightii (1999), which lost its five foot main trunk in the winter of
1999 (frost damage), was not worried by the rain and the four or five small suckers are growing on well, and
I reckon this interesting palm is surely worth a try in very mild areas such as central London, though a neutral
or low pH, (acid) soil is crucial.
Despite these extreme, severe, and unexpected conditions, only one palm-a newly planted Butia
yatay (August 2000)-died: suddenly in April 2001 due to flooding. Yes, just a single casualty! I can assure
you that I never anticipated flooding (it had not happened in the fifty years since the house was built) but
I had expected heavy winter rain, and hotter summers due to global warming and therefore my planting is done
gradually, rather than being rushed, and is still continuing. Apart from the Butia yatay, all the other plants
were well established and had the extensive root systems to cope without too much stress; if the flood had continued
for longer, however, it could have been a very different outcome.
What are the lessons for palm and exotic plant lovers? If, perhaps, you are new to this wonderful
palmy way of life and full of enthusiasm to rush out into the back yard and plant everything all at once then
my advice for those with a temperate or continental climate is DON'T! Instead, plant gradually over three or
four years or more, and should a calamity occur, such as a surprise hard frost or even record high temperatures
and drought, then all your more established palms and exotica will have a good chance of survival and you won't
be facing total wipeout in year one. Newly planted palms and exotics will be badly stressed by all such extreme
events. So, my palm friends, don't put all your eggs into one basket; just prepare your ground carefully, relax,
take your time . . . and be happy.