Six on Saturday:  Gifts

My package of palms arrived from California Horticulturalist Tony Tomeo on Wednesday afternoon

Gifts are always fun.  Gardening gifts are the best, and gifts of plants always warm my heart.  A living plant is a gift from the heart, and it creates a special bond between giver and receiver as the plant grows on and develops into its potential.

That said, sometimes those gifted plant can get too enthusiastic and create work down the road.  But when that happens, I try to dig up those I can’t use and share them with someone else.  I love trying new plants I’ve not grown before.   Most gardeners I know love expanding their gardening experience by growing out new types of plants.

When California Horticulturalist, Tony Tomeo, who has been corresponding with me for the last several years through our respective blogs, offered to send me some windmill palms, Trachycarpus fortunei, I immediately accepted his kind offer.  He told me these were babies, and he assured me that they should grow OK here in coastal Virginia. 

Each palm tree was wrapped so carefully in moist paper, and all packed into bags to keep them hydrated on their journey across the United States.

I’ve not grown palms before.  What a wonderful opportunity to learn something new!  I know that they will do well on my sheltered front patio.  Since these are slow growing, I can keep them in pots on the patio for the time being, to watch them grow.  Once they settle in and grow more roots, I expect to transplant two of these beautiful palms into large pots on either side of my front porch.

Tony wrapped each palm carefully in butcher paper and packaged them so skillfully that they made the trip from California to Virginia in perfect condition.    I only hope that I can keep them in the terrific condition they arrived in!  He very kindly gave me more information about how to grow them through some emails and has agreed to answer questions as they arise.  Plants and mentoring, too!

I was very excited to unwrap each tree to see its beautiful structure. Now, I’m curious to see the seeds that these palms produce.

Windmill palms are hardy to Zone 7 and will grow in many parts of the United States.  Originally from Asia, they aren’t as common here on the mid-Atlantic  Coast as they are along the Pacific Coast of the United States. 

Beautiful, easy to grow plants should be popular wherever they can grow.  These are considered trees, and the day will come when I’ll need to find a spot for them in the garden where they can grow properly, without the confinement of a pot.

Beautiful roots! These needed larger pots than I expected, and I may have planted this one too shallow. I’m used to planting East Coast trees, which can be planted a little high, and will grow better than if buried too deeply.

I appreciate this gift so much.  It is funny how many of us remain interested in growing new plants, no matter how many hundreds of different plants we have already.  For me, it is endless curiosity about how things grow.

Tony has been writing about wanting to grow our common beautyberry, Callicarpa americana, for a long time now.  I started some seeds last fall and have been watching for a good candidate to dig and send to Tony at the proper time.  Mailing plants across the country has its own challenges, especially with the weather extremes we’ve had recently.

This is the first tree potted and ready to grow!

Tony’s offer of windmill palms motivated me to pull a package together for him now that we have beautiful cool days and nights of early autumn.   I had a few seedlings, and included some cuttings that have ripening fruits, with seeds, as well.  With his nurseryman’s skill, I’m sure he will generate several good plants from this material.  I can’t wait to see his berry covered beautyberry shrubs in a year or two!

Simply beautiful! I can’t wait to watch these mature.

Though this is ‘Six’ on Saturday, I want to beg indulgence to include a seventh photo, and another brief story.  This time last year, I found a bedraggled Alocasia ‘African Mask’ on the reduced rack at our local Lowe’s.  This plant was so far gone it was difficult to even identify the plant in the pot, except by a few dead leaves and a plastic tag.  It was marked down to $1.  The two pots were worth that whether the plant lived, or not.

Well, Alocasia is a tuber, a geophyte, and has some period of going dormant most years.  So, I brought the pot home, fed and watered it, covered the top of the pot in plastic to conserve moisture, and set it in a warm spot in my office.  Then I watched it regularly for some sign of new growth to bring it out into brighter light.

And, I waited…..for months.  In early summer, I brought the pot outdoors and set it in a shady nursery area.  By then, I had no expectations at all.  I was ready to recycle the pot as needed.  And then this week, as I was watering that area. I noticed something green and shiny!  New leaves!  Finally, that Alocasia tuber had come back into active growth! 

It is a small start, but proof of life.  It is moments like these that keep me gardening. 

Keep hope alive.  Plants just want to live, Gardeners just want to grow things, and miracles unfold all around us.

With appreciation to The Propagator, who hosts Six on Saturday each week.

6 comments

  1. They look so happy! That trip must have been quite an adventure! It is so gratifying that they went to a good home.
    When they eventually get potted, they should get tapered pots, rather than pots that constrict at the top. Otherwise, they will be impossible to remove without ruining the pots. This old article explains that common mistake.
    https://tonytomeo.com/2020/04/15/horridculture-slim-waists/
    Pruning their older leaves away as they begin to turn brown, rather than waiting for them to turn completely brown, not only keeps them looking neater, but slows their growth slightly, so that they can stay potted for a bit longer. It also allows a bit more sunlight through to any annuals that you might like to grow within the same pots below the palms. When pruning the old leaves off, the petioles should be cut very close to the trunk. That is not as easy as it sounds, since the bases of the petioles are very hairy. I like to cut them right where the petiole curves from vertical to horizontal. Otherwise, the stubs protrude from all that fur. Alternatively, the shaggy petiole bases can be cut from the trunks. That is a bit of work, but leaves the trunks bare. (I can explain that later if necessary.) Their roots are tough and fibrous, but can be cut if necessary to keep the upper portion of medium loose for annuals. They will just put more roots deeper into the pots. If the pots are big enough, the palms can actually live in them for a long time, and even develop trunks. Of course, they eventually get top heavy, even in very large pots. Once the canopy matures, and the trunks begin to develop, the canopy gets no larger. It just gets higher on the developing trunk. Anyway, I am probably getting to be redundant now. Windmill palms are not at all complicated.
    Thank you SO much for the beautyberry and butterfly ginger. They arrived on Thursday, and were retrieved on Friday. These are my very FIRST beautyberry! https://tonytomeo.com/2021/10/02/six-on-saturday-williamsburg/

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for all of this additional information, Tony. I especially appreciate the tip to choose tapered pots. After seeing the roots on these seedlings, I can only imagine how tough they will be once the plant matures in a few years! I generally cut plastic pots away when the roots are tough, but that isn’t an option with nice ceramic, and it can be quite the wrestling match! Sometimes it takes two to free the root ball without destroying the pot!
      I understand what you are saying about cutting off fading leaves. I saw your post with the queen palm tree. Those dangling leaves caught my eye right away, but i assumed there was some error that landscapers had made that was much more subtle that I couldn’t spot. i had a good chuckle when you finally said that the leaves should have been trimmed.

      Cutting tools are my most important gardening tools. I carry 3 different types of cutters in my vest and have two or three heavier tools close at hand when I work. It takes maybe an hour to buy and plant a new plant, which is the appealing part of gardening for so many. But then you have many years of dead heading, grooming and pruning to maintain a plant. Not so romantic as planting, right? But that is what it takes to have a beautiful garden or landscape. Thank you SO much for the opportunity to learn about the palms and watch them develop!

      The ginger lily really runs, Tony. Mine clearly needs thinning now, and is running into spots too shady for it to bloom. It likes full sun to partial sun and will lean into the available light if it is too shaded. (the rhizomes you have had grown into a shady spot and hadn’t bulked up they way they will when growing in the sun.)

      Beautyberry will grow well and bloom in full sun to partial shade. It really is an understory shrub and will continue to grow in tight quarters and under taller trees. I hope you enjoy watching both grow into their potential.

      Enjoy the day!

      Liked by 1 person

      • There are a few options for pruning and grooming windmill palms. I already mentioned that the trunks can be shaven if you prefer that style, although it takes a bit of effort. Old fronds (leaves) are most commonly pruned away, leaving the shaggy petiole bases firmly attached to the trunk. Alternatively, the old leaves can be left as a ‘beard’. I almost never see a beard that extends to the ground, and I think that such a beard would be quite unappealing. However, after a tree grows beyond reach from the ground, it might be allowed to accumulate a plump beard. That style was more common years ago. Most windmill palms get groomed, even if it is necessary to hire an aborists. Some are left to accumulate a beard for a few years, and then groomed thoroughly. Their beards are rather neat. You can look up pictures of them online.

        Liked by 1 person

      • There may not be many pictures of windmill palms with beards, but there are plenty of pictures of Mexican fan palms and California fan palms with beards, since they so commonly wear them.

        Liked by 1 person

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