These are the things you need to know before going down the tropical path (with palms) in
Britain that I wasnt told:
1. Britain is mostly sopping wet and has cool summers, which means things grow slowly (I shouldve worked
that one out myself).
2. Any big palm will almost certainly have been grown in a field and will not grow well for several years while
it re-establishes its roots (frighteningly expensive = pot grown).
3. Drainage is not as important for some species as others, i.e. Trachys will grow in clay with ease and lap
it up along with Chamaerops humilis, and Butia doesnt seem to mind it either as long as its not
4. Chamaerops and Trachys seem to grow in any position, i.e. total shade, north facing, in clay, etc. They really
are that tough.
5. Most palms like wind-free conditions to look their best, and bear in mind that as they grow slowly they can
soon look a mess without it.
6. They are a lot hardier than most will tell you. Here -6žC (21žF) does almost nothing damage-wise for 95%
of them and they are unprotected except by high fences and tall bamboos to slow the wind. Smaller plants will
probably not be as hardy.
7. For the ones that dont like wet winters (Brahea, etc.) try and put a plastic cover over them to keep
them dry (such as a golf umbrella). Remember its not the cold they cant stand; its the wet
8. When buying palms, dont go for the largest. Go for the ones with the thickest, most cardboard-type
leaves and with a good set of spears in the crown pushing out (the more the better for fastest growth). The
reason my Brahea and Phoenix died was that they were grown under glass and had stretched petioles and were generally
not as tough as ones grown outdoors.
9. There is a limit with all plants, but youll have to find your own. My advice: move to central London
or Cornwall or anywhere within 100 yards of the sea, preferably west/south coast, for maximum growth rates.
10. Spending a thousand pounds on plants? Then ask for at least a 20% discount.
11. Buy at sale times at the Palm Centre, i.e. winter (you dont get the biggest plants but in a few years
no one will notice).
12. Lie through your teeth. Say youre a landscape gardener to get a discount and print off some headed
paper to suggest this. You can cleave at least 20% off most suppliers.
13. Prepare your ground as best as you possibly can and work out where your sun is for the best results. Dont
forget winter sun is the most important for quick defrosting. Take into account that its at a lower point
in the sky in winter and things that it may clear in the summer it wont in the winter, leaving plants
in shade, whereas at the height of summer they may well get full sun.