Archive for July, 2009
We currently have some amazing specimens in the store right now. There is a 48-inch box Jubaea (Chilean wine palm, pictured on left) as well as a multi Howea forsteriana, a specimen Dracaena draco, a 10-foot Brahea edulis (Guadalupe palm), a spectacular 36-inch box Chamaerops humilis (Mediterranean fan palm) and others. We have been working for years to have a collection like this and we are quite pleased at how great it looks. Check out some of the pictures or better yet, come in and enjoy them in person. Even the palm naysayers are enjoying the show.
One of the palms that we can grow better here in coastal California than almost anywhere else is Rhopalostylis sapida, the Nikau of New Zealand. (It’s also known as the shavingbrush palm.) It thrives in our cool, foggy climate, even tolerating the incessant summer wind of San Francisco. Here are some young trees at the San Francisco Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park:
We found an awesome gallery on the New Zealand Palm Society’s website with lavish photos of this beautiful species in its homeland, Aotearoa (the Maori name for New Zealand).
This species grows farther from the Equator than any other palm, at 44 degrees south latitude in the Chatham Islands, 500 miles east of New Zealand’s South Island. That latitude in the northern hemisphere runs by Portland, Maine, Toronto, Canada, Genoa, Italy, and Eugene, Oregon. Here on the California coast, specimens have succeeded at least as far north as the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. There are reports of specimens surviving farther north, on the southern Oregon coast; Brookings’s microclimate, Sunset zone 17, would be a good one in which to experiment with Nikau palms.
Nikaus like some shade when young, but once they form a trunk, they thrive in full sun in the fog belt. Even moisture and mild fertilizing will keep them growing steadily; they are not drought-tolerant and won’t endure freezing below about 25 Fahrenheit (-3.9 celsius). Inland, where ocean fog rarely penetrates, dry heat and winter frost limit their usefulness, but they are worth planting in Sunset zones 17, 16, and those parts of zone 15 with protective evergreen tree canopy. They are reputed to tolerate clay soils better than most palms.
One very nice Nikau here in San Francisco is at Project Artaud, an artists’ community located in the northeast Mission/Potrero Hill neighborhood between Florida and Alabama and Mariposa and 17th streets. Our friend Benjy Young has planted many rare and beautiful palms there over the years, many of which are visible from the street. We will focus on some of their other species in future posts.
This month Sunset Magazine has a short piece on palms in pots. Hazel White interviewed us for our suggestions for the best species to use. It was hard to decide — there are so many possibilities. Some species are no-brainers, however, like Trachycarpus wagnerianus (which we call “waggie”), Butia capitata (pindo palm), Chamaedorea radicalis, and Chamaerops humilis (the Mediterranean fan palm).
Waggies are very cold-hardy, easily tolerating freezing temperatures and looking beautiful etched in frost. They can remain in pots indefinitely, as beautiful bonsai. We know of one that lived in an ancient stone pot, no wider than 12 inches, for 20 years. Its sculpted leaves were perfect, tiny fans.
Butia capitata’s recurved leaves make a charming effect when they curl around below the lip of their container. They make for a very bold form, and can range in color from olive green to silvery-blue.
The Mediterranean fan palm has been holding its own in the new pedestrian plaza at the intersection of Castro, 17th, and Market streets in San Francisco. It can handle a lot of wind and sun, and, while very pretty to look at, it repels vandalism with its thorny leaf stems.