I have been a great fan of palms and cycads for many years and I am with my third garden with these wonderful plants. However where I now live, in the Adelaide Hills, cold winters and hot dry summers limit the range of species I can grow. This is particularly so for plants we generally and commonly refer to as “cycads”.
Palms and cycads are not endemic to South Australia but some species of both plant orders obviously can grow in SA, where local conditions are favourable.
If there is interest, I would be happy to arrange an outing and provide a guided tour of an arboretum displaying many commonly available and rare specimens of palms and cycads growing in SA. Naturally that could only occur when conditions allow us to gather.
As an aside this collection now boasts the largest collection of Brahea palms in Australia.
So with what was left after my first winter it was time to go back to my books and research what would do better and I added another criteria, that the palms should be fast growing, in consideration of my advanced years. Size was also a consideration as some palms have such an enormous spread one could dominate my front yard. Perhaps another consideration could be how prickly they can be but I also thought to create a canopy that hoped might protect my Dioon’s, a genus of Cycadaceae, of which I have two species, Cycas thouasii (can reach 10 m) and Encephalartos munchii who’s male cones can stand more than a metre tall. The cycads than seem to be most tolerant of the conditions are a pair of potted Cycas revoluta. I won’t know their sex until they cone but as they are soon destined to enter the garden it won’t be long before I know.
For my small front garden I have opted to have one genus dominate and to have a predominance of one species. You might recognise a common and readily available palm, the “Chinese Windmill” palm - Trachycarpus fortunei.
Trachycarpus is a genus of eleven species, all are dioecious and native to Asia, from the Himalaya east to eastern China. A medium to large, lightly armed fan palm to about 10 m tall and about 20-25 cm dia. It isn't self cleaning, so the old, dead leaves can form a skirt around the top of the trunk. The leaf bases produce persistent fibres that often give the trunk a characteristic hairy appearance.
I have 10 T. fortunei, which is the northernmost cultivated palm species in the world and has been cultivated in China for a thousand or so years. Also in my collection is a dwarf form that is probably even hardier and was previously known as T. wagnerianus (I have 4) but it is unknown in the wild and now considered synonymous with T. fortunei.
Other species less common in cultivation are T. geminisectus, T. latisectus, T. martianus (I have 3), T. nanusand T. oreophilus, T. princeps (I have 4) and T. takil (I have 3).
Other palms in my front garden include 2 Trithrinax brasilienses, generally similar to Trachycarpus but with different leaves and spines on the trunk, and a Jubaea chilensis - Chilean Wine Palm. This is a contradiction to all the others as in time it will reach up to 25 m with a diameter of 1.3 m.