After writing entries for this blog for nearly two years, although I have written about pampas, I've never written about palms. What an omission! I guess subconsciously I've been avoiding this, as I really don't know much about palms despite living in a city called Palm Springs! My recent trip down to Florida enable me to get several new pictures of palms, some of which I couldn't identify and this set me thinking about this huge group of dramatic trees.
|Love the shadows from the strong but low winter sun|
The family may be called Arecaceae or Palmaceae and there are 200 genera with 2600 species - not exactly a minor group of plants, although with most being tropical, sub-tropical or warm temperate, us chilly British gardeners tend to forget them. Commercially they are the sources of coconuts, dates, palm oil and even raffia. Commonly they are trees with a single trunk ending in a crown of evergreen leaves and the growing point, although some may be multi-stemmed and more shrub-like. There are a few that are trunkless and prostrate and even some climbers. Botanically the leaf shapes are termed palmate, the fan palms and pinnate, the feather palms.
|Feather palm - pinnate|
|Fan palm - palmate|
|Washingtonia filifera - Californian fan palm|
|W. robusta - Mexican fan palm|
|Palm skirt - natural but is it attractive in a cultivated landscape? Also tend to harbour vermin!|
|Date palms in a local park - Philip says they look like 'real' palm trees!|
|Young dates developing|
|Butia - jelly palm|
|Mature Mexican blue palms - I think!|
|Arecastrum romanzoffianum - queen palm|
In the UK we have only really one reliably hardy palm and that's Trachycarpus fortunei, the Chusan palm from central China. Around the UK there are many mature specimens of this truly hardy species. My own plant is now about 3m high and came through the tough 2011 winter without a mark. Chamaerops humilis, the Mediterranean dwarf palm is often hardy too in a sheltered location. Other gardeners have tried jelly palms and Mexican blue palms and whilst they will sometimes survive mild winters, they tend to struggle and never look really healthy and vigorous. For UK gardeners, it is probably best to grow these borderline species in containers and move to a a greenhouse or tunnel for winter to give a little protection.
|Unscathed Trachycarpus in my UK garden, surrounded by dead plants after 2011 winter|
|Cyrtostachys renda - Sealing wax palm|
|Chamaerops humilis 'Argenteo'|
|Cocus nucifera - coconut|
|Newly planted palms|
|Fallen palm after a storm - see the small tootball|
|Not a job I would envy!|
|Self-set palm seedlings - weeds?|