Idiot’s Guide to Palms in Britain

(page 2)

I then stuffed the plants in the ground (technical term: “carefully planted”), stood back and waited. And waited and waited (drifts into coma). The following couple of years led me to believe that palms, here in Birmingham, were not going to be in any way fast growing. It was at this point that I realized that by the time I was about 145 years old I would, in fact, have amazing specimens! Thoroughly demoralized I started to enquire after larger specimens. This was a time when a lot of palms were just being brought in by the Palm Centre in larger sizes in decent quantities, and that were, relatively speaking, reasonably priced. No more 3-foot high girl’s blouse tiddlers [Editor’s rough translation for non-Brits: “wimpy small fish”] for me, then, and I launched into a frenzy of “BIG” buying. All this was done after seeing no damage at all to the smaller palms over the several years that I’d had them, and so I presumed that they would in fact grow and survive.

The first biggies were the safe ones: Butia capitata with a base diameter of about 18 inches and 7 feet overall; then Trachys, as many as I could get, cheap from the Palm Centre at roughly £100 each for about six feet (1.8 metres for Europhiles) of trunk; and Chamaerops humilis with 24 inches (60 cm) of trunk and a diameter of approximately 10 inches (25 cm). None had any problems with winter temperatures down to -6C (21F) but the Trachys didn’t like the wind tunnel at the end of the garden and were subsequently moved some years later. Getting more adventurous (or stupid, some would say), I then went even more barking [Editor’s translation for non-Brits: “insane,” short for “barking mad”] and went after anything that may have had a chance, half a chance, or even no chance! All were of a good size, i.e. six-foot (1.8 metres) Brahea armata, 4-foot (1.2 metres) trunk Trithrinax campestris, Butia yatay with 4-foot (1.2 metres) trunk, etc, etc.

All was well with most of them, growing slowly but steadily. I added to the plants anything that took my fancy, so long as it was “BIG”, as time was the limiting factor. Then the deaths started occurring: Brahea armata died just after winter and after pushing out some spear, Phoenix canariensis was trashed by wind and mushed in the middle, Dicksonia fibrosa, Cyathea dealbata, Syagrus romanzoffiana . . . (what idiot told me to try that one? Oh, um, me!). However, all of the other plants besides these did extremely well considering I feared total devastation, not only of plants but also of wallet. Eventually I ripped out all the grass, as there was lot of wasted space (and the mower was packed up anyway; well, that was quite a good excuse). By this time, of course, I was hooked. I have added to the garden over the last few years but basically what you see in the pictures is no more than 4 years old, the smaller plants having been in pots for some years before that, and then in the ground.

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