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Palms can add an architectural effect to our gardens as well as an exotic, jungle style.  They are often drought tolerant and can give a holiday at home feel, reminding us of treasured vacations.

Butia capitata (Jelly Palm)

Pictured above

Butia capitata, also known as the Jelly Palm or Pindo Palm is a beautiful addition to the tropical themed garden with its gracefully arching fronds. When established it is hardy down to -5c. The larger the plant the better it will fare in our UK climate. It prefers a sheltered warm site.  It is ideal near a south facing wall.  This plant has won the RHS Award of Garden Merit, so we can be sure that it has been tested in our UK climate.  However some protection may be required to prevent shredding of the leaves by frosts and cold winds in winter. The ultimate height of this palm in the UK climate is 4m with a spread of around 1.5m.

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 Washingtonia robusta (Hardy Cotton Palm)

The spiky fronds of this exotic palm cast interesting shadows on the garden around them.  The cotton-like strands that fall from each leaf has led to their common name, the Cotton Palm. They add height to the garden, either in borders or pots. They will grow to a considerable height in time if left to grow.  Their stout trunks and architectural fronds add a tropical paradise effect to any garden.

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Trachycarpus fortunei (Hardy Chusan Palm)

The Chusan Palm or Windmill Palm is one of the hardiest palm trees in our UK gardens, surviving temperatures down to -10c. Whether in pots or borders, the handsome and tough fronds will give an instant Mediterranean feel.  It is a compact and slow growing variety, only getting 5-10cm taller each year. This makes them one of the most manageable palms for the smaller plot, although in many years to come they may reach 10m in height and a spread of 1.5m. The RHS Award of Garden Merit given to them makes them sure to have been trialled and tested in our UK gardens.

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Phoenix canariensis (Canary Island Date Palm)

If you have been lucky enough to have visited the Canary Islands or mainland Spain you are sure to have seen these Canary Island Date Palms and can be reminded daily of your holiday memories.  Despite the dramatic and tropical effect of these plants they thrive in the UK and are winter hardy down to -6c. They make perfect container plants in the garden.  With their deep green leaves and thick trunks they give a very tropical display all year round. The plants are very drought tolerant when mature, but will need daily watering during the summer months whilst young.

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Chamaerops Humilis (Hardy Fan Palm)

This Dwarf Fan Palm will take you back to Mediterranean visits, or if you haven’t been blessed with such a holiday you can create your own tropical theme at home.  Despite their exotic appearance they are frost hardy to -5c, but may need protection in harsh weather.  The abundant green fans extend from a compact bush.  They are perfect in patio pots so that they may be moved undercover, but will also add interest to a sunny border. Once established they are drought tolerant which is useful if you are away from home and unable to water daily in summer.

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Brahea armata (Blue Palm)

Brahea armata is known as the Blue Palm due to the silvery shade of grey-green of the fan shaped leaves which gives the plant a bluish, ethereal tinge.  This palm seems to have many names, including the Mexican Blue Palm, the Blue Hesper Palm and the Grey Goddess.  The fact that it is compact and slow growing makes the plant ideal for patio containers to add tropical beauty to even the most diminutive of gardens.  It is drought tolerant and can also withstand both partial shade and full sun. It is said to be hardy down to -10c when established but will benefit from some winter protection from severe frost and cold wind.  It creates an exotic feel as the breeze rustles the leaves. In the UK the plant can be expected to reach an eventual height of around 4m and a spread of around 1.5m. Again, this palm is the winner of the prestigious RHS Award of Garden Merit for its suitability for UK conditions.

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Chamerops humilis ‘Cerifera’ (Hardy Blue Fan Palm)

The steel blue grey fans of this hardy palm will bring a wonderful tropical feeling to your garden.  The colour is stronger in full sun.  It is reported to be even hardier than the plain green species, tolerating temperatures down to -10c in our gardens once established.  It is a very slow growing variety, making it suitable for pots on the patio, decking or balcony.  Little maintenance is required other than watering.

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General care of Palms

In general palms prefer a sunny site. They also like free draining soil, so if your  soil is heavy it may be worth considering growing palms in containers filled with a loam based compost such as John Innes number two with extra grit for drainage. The weight of the grit will also add stability to the container. Little maintenance is required, other than watering and removing any brown leaves.  It is often sensible to protect the plants in harsh conditions by wrapping the leaves with fleece to protect the crown, or if grown in a container the plants can be moved into a greenhouse or conservatory in the coldest months. If growing in containers, repot the plants in spring every couple of years. A liquid feed will be appreciated every fortnight from mid-spring to late summer.

Mark Snelling

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