A Paradise of Palms

Posted by admin in Garden Flowers

As summer peeks around the corner, backyard festivities are heating up. From crawfish boils and barbeques to playing catch and hosting pool parties, if you enjoy entertaining, there is no doubt your landscape will be center stage for outdoor events over the next few months. Keep the excitement burning all season by creating a paradise of palms. These tropical beauties can give your garden an exotic air that your guests will love.

Design your island escape in no time with the jagged arches of date palms, the queen palms’ imperial feathers, or the colossal Chinese fan leaves. Hailed chiefly for their matchless texture and sultry splendor, palms are sure to enhance any of your poolside pleasures and patio parties. Let them reign over tropical shrubs like hibiscus, ixora, and plumbago, or have them sway their majestic fronds over rich evergreens like bottlebrush, ‘Calisto’ Indian hawthorns, and ‘Formosa’ azaleas. Line them along entryways as well, to greet your guests with a warm welcome.

Palm trees thrive in sunny locales, so if you have a yard with bright light, you are in luck. Ranging from eight feet in height to an impressive 60-foot stature, depending on the variety, they work well when planted as either single specimen or when arranged in groups. Make sure you know the estimated height at maturity before planting; all too often landscape contractors and homeowners alike mistakenly integrate large growing palms in minuscule spots. Sago palms for instance, are a bit expansive to be planted near narrow sidewalks and doorways, and would ultimately need to be transplanted later, or possibly be removed entirely from the garden. Likewise, the pointed spines of pygmy date palms might prove too sharp to be planted near poolside edges. On the whole, palms are slow growing, but as with any tree or shrub, you will appreciate their presence far more if you only have to plant them once. Remember also that palm trees look and perform their best when fertilized regularly during the growing season—a complete palm food rich in nitrogen yields lush green foliage all season. Get a start on your tropical haven today by planting palms like Phoenix roebelenii, Canary Island date palms, queen, or Chinese fan palms.

Phoenix roebelenii, or pygmy date palms, are native to the tropical forests of southeast Asia, where they specifically grace the islands of Thailand and Burma. As its common name suggests, this miniature date palm reaches only eight to 10 feet tall, making it perfect for small-scaled landscapes. Nevertheless, it casts a big shadow with its four-foot fronds of iridescent green. Noted for its slender ornate trunk, the base of the roebelenii is darted with remnants of leaf stems, giving this palm a character of its own; piercing-sharp spines point like armed daggers near the bottoms of the fronds. Though striking in appearance, these spines can prove somewhat injurious if handled in any way; you may want to refrain from planting the roebelenii in children’s play areas or near the borders of swimming pools.

Atop the base lies a dense head of feather-soft foliage that luxuriantly spills forth a fountain of green. Cream colored flowers hang proudly in the summer, and on female plants are later followed by purplish black dates. Phoenix roebelenii, although somewhat cold hardy, may experience some winter damage if temperatures dip below 30 degrees F for several hours. To best protect your palm, plant it on the south side of your house—this will help shield it from wintry north winds. Because the roebelenii reaches a maximum height of 10 feet, it works well in either containers or in the garden. Integrate Sabal minor palms or sago palms around it for added texture and variety. ‘Little John’ bottlebrush, Texas sage, and ‘Glossy’ abelia also look charming when planted near the base of roebelenii.

Canary Island date palms (Phoenix canariensis), indigenous to the Canary Islands, are slow growing trees that reach almost 60 feet tall. Becoming increasingly popular along the Southeast, these gorgeous palms are admired for their massive canopy of emerald green that enigmatically brims over the top of a diamond engraved base. Similar to the roebelenii’s markings, the trunk’s jeweled shadows opulently outline the points of old leaf attachments. A solid pineapple-like nut comprised of severed frond stems adjoins the base and canopy.

With their bold appearance and broad physique, Canary Island date palms make powerful statements when planted as focal points in the landscape. Incorporate ‘Scarlet’ bottlebrush, ‘Gilt Edge’ elaeagnus, and ‘Desperado’ sage for a truly captivating display. ‘Knockout’ roses, bougainvilleas, and ‘Kaleidoscope’ abelias can also bring out the lush green of the date palms.

‘Queen’ palms (Syagrus romanzoffiana), having originated in southern Brazil and Argentina, can also bring exceptional tropical appeal to your garden. These lofty palm trees are fast growing by nature and reach an elegant 50 feet in height. Their smooth grey trunks majestically extend skyward, as 10- to 15-foot fronds gracefully hang outstretched. The long pendulous branches emerge as vivid lime green feathers and turn a glossy dark green as they mature. Popular in southern California and Florida landscapes, queen palms are fast becoming the choice palm for Louisiana as well, due to its quick growth rate and winter hardiness. Create a Beverly Hills ambiance by lining your driveway, patio, or swimming pool with a host of these regal palms. Tropical hibiscus, tibouchinas, and oleanders look superb when planted beneath the sultry queen palms. Add also allamandas and Duranta repens for still more exotic color throughout the summer.

Consider planting Chinese fan palms (Livistona chinensis) if you need a dense textured palm tree with verdant, lustrous foliage. Native to southern Japan, Taiwan, and central China, the Chinese fan is unfailing in the South, averaging almost 15 feet in height and measuring a beefy one foot in diameter across the trunk. With the palm’s maturity, its solitary base grows more prominent, and its gleaming green leaves span five feet across as they droop downward, creating a luxurious fountain-like effect. Chinese fan palms are some of the easiest palms to grow and perfect for landscapes, both large and small. Employ them as understory trees in wooded settings or integrate them in your tropical garden beside your patio—the possibilities are endless. Plant dwarf oleanders, purple fountain grass, and upright ruellia to enhance the thick texture of the palms. Miscanthus sinensis, ‘Knockout’ roses, and Illicium floridanum also make exceptional companions.

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