Monday, September 8, 2008

Go Figure: Cold Hardy Palms from a Box Store

Okay, I have to give credit where credits due. Home Depot Aspen Hill, Maryland and these are Needle Palms, Rhapidophyllum hystrix. If we were in Florida these plants wouldn't be any big deal. Even as far north as the North Carolina Shore, they are sold regularly as landscape plants, but this a Maryland. There are people who would claim, wrongly, but still.....that Aspen Hill is USDA Zone 6. It is surely 7 but that's moot because Needle Palms are hardy in 6b. Hey, they are, in my view, the hardiest palm. Sure there are Trachycarpus and Sabal species hardy to 7 and bunches hardy in 8, which is, paranthetically, what DC effectively is now. It may not last; this winter we could have sub-zero temperatures, but it's been a long time since we've actually had temperatures in the city below 10 F for any amount of time.

Rhapidophyllum is a nice SE Native that likes water. I ignorantly assumed that because it was a prickly palm it wouldn't be discomfitted by spending time without water in the sandy soil of Adelpi, but I was wrong. That poor plant paid the price, but it has been resusicated, revived, and restored and now will have a companion.

I first met the Needle Palm in the Asian Collections at the US National Arboretum in 1990. Despite its being North American, the reigning powers let it live and now its too big to move and too much a fixture to consider removing. You can see it from the road at the juncture of China Valley and Asian Valley. It is a big plant, so if you do get one, give it plenty of room.

Karen and the boys spotted them on a trip to replenish masonry supplies, bought one, and brought it home. This evening Karen had an appointment to meet with a couple and finalize plans for the installation of their "Key West" inspired landscape. (Serendipity!!??) We had talked about this plant and tentatively included it but availability is always an issue. Not this time. A happy customer has taken early possession of their palm. After that meeting, a late trip this evening netted another 4 plants; I'll keep one and now it just remains to be seen who gets the other three.

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