The unassuming palm tree is one of the bastions of 1980’s garden design. It was in this decade that to find a garden without one could be likened to discovering a teenage girl, in the same era, without a boofy hairdo – it was a near-on impossibility.
Their sudden uptake, especially here in Oz, was attributed to a number of factors but the most common desirable feature was caused by diminishing block sizes. That’s right, as the average yard became smaller home owners wanted plants that weren’t going to produce a heap of problems in the future. This was a feature that a native eucalypt wasn’t going to guarantee. It appeared that everyone had simultaneously woken to the idea that coastal living might suit coastal plants – duh!
As a garden fashion accessory, the palm tree was without competition. They were cheap, accessible and available in plague proportion. Three decades later the mission brown paint may have disappeared but palm trees seemed to have survived the rigours of a fad-driven culture.
The reason: their benefits are timeless and endearing.
10 Reasons a Palm Tree Would Work In Your Garden
- Non-Raker’s Delight. if I’d earned a dollar for every time I’d heard a gardener whinging about raking leaves, I’m sure I’d be a very wealthy man by now. The beauty of the palm tree is it doesn’t have leaves to be raked. Instead their foliage is made up of fronds which are discarded, usually on a seasonal basis, to make way for new growth.
While raking leaves is an ongoing task, picking up a frond or two could hardly be classed as ‘work’.
- Instant Landscape – this is by far one of the greatest benefits for growing palm trees. It only takes a few specimens but even at 1-2m high they can quickly transform bare dirt into a seductive oasis.
- Low Maintenance. As far as many of our trees and plants go, the palm tree competes only with the conifer for the least maintenance required. They don’t need regular watering nor copious amounts of nutrition and will hold up with a minimum amount of fuss. They are susceptible to very few pests and diseases and if they do happen to die, you could also pick up another one at Bunnings on the weekend.
- Lite Feeders. Unlike roses which are Light Feeders (whenever it’s light they start feeding) palms are truly lite feeders. Jenny Craig devotees could learn a lot from these plants. They source their nutrition from the most unassuming places and can thrive on such minimal amounts of content.
For those who can’t help but fertilise their plants, you may want to hold back on these specimens. Instead, stick with an annual, or biennial, slow-release.
- Hundreds of Different Types of Palm Trees. For the gardener choice is crucial which is the reason petunias are available in a myriad of colours, patterns and flowering shapes. They’re still the same plant but we like to disguise it on the grounds of novelty attraction.
Fortunately, palms come in all shapes and sizes as well. Sure, they’re still palms but you couldn’t say that the Kentia Palm was the same as a Cycas Revoluta or a Windmill Palm was the same as a Parlour Palm. No sirree, Bob. Palm trees come in all shapes and sizes. Bangalow Palms, Cocos Palms, Date Palms, Needle Palms, Chinese Fan Palms…the list is endless. There are short palms, tall palms, in-between palms and palm trees we’re still yet to discover for the home use. Variety, with this tree, is definitely not in short supply.
- Storm-proof. If you’ve ever seen footage of a cyclone or tornado lapping a coastal district you won’t have missed the palm trees being violently swayed in the gusts. Yet, despite the onslaught most manage to survive undeterred while other plants are unceremoniously plucked from their habitats and discarded miles away.
The palm tree has an amazing root system that will hold it firmly in situ and just bend and sway against any strong winds. This means you will rarely have one falling on top of your house or crashing through your recently added pergola.
- Survive in most climates. While many of our palms are tropical or sub-tropical and reside in coastal locations there are a few varieties that can also survive cold climates and even grow in higher altitudes. If you’re looking for some varieties for your areas then check out Wikipedia’s info.
- Will Grow in Most Soil Types. Palm trees can grow in most soil types as well.
While their preference is for sandy soils, or sandy loams, they have been known to grow in clay quite well. The trick to getting them started in such a contrasting soil type is to plant them in a large hole that is back-filled will river sand. This will help them get established and then they can learn to grow the clay as they mature.
- Mature Palms are worth BIG $$$$. Once your palm tree has matured it can become quite a valued piece of property. Depending on the type of palm, many can be transplanted quite successfully. These are always in high demand by home-owners, landscapers and sometimes even botanical gardens.
- Fool-proof. I have yet to see a palm that couldn’t be grown by just about any type of gardener, including the ultimate novices. All the benefits listed above direct themselves to this remaining point – they are not a tough plant to grow.
Makes you want to rush and buy one, doesn’t it?
Photo source: Mohammed Alnaser