It’s January and that means it’s time to select and order seeds. The number one priority is to get something going for the atrium at the new place. I’ve decided on a range of palms. Two minutes online resulted in finding the Rare Palm Seeds website, which has a fair spread available to order.
First, there are the rattan palms, chiefly the genus Calamus. Once upon a time, reading a book on palms in search of plants of rare charisma, I discovered that some palms behave like climbers. Besides their unfamiliar form, the appeal of these is that they grow like the clappers. When I then discovered that they climb by means of spines, barbs and hooks, the idea was firmly lodged in my mind that here was something worth going after. The main drawback is the these are fully tropical plants, needing a lot of light and heat in order to grow at all. Provided I can get the seeds to germinate, i’ll keep them under grow lights and on a heat mat until I have a house plant that can be put on show and enjoyed. I doubt that they will appreciate the house temperature of 15c to 20c, but my guess is that they should last awhile before foundering. I tell myself that they will have the heavily armed stems of a solanum species I used to have, but with very large pinnate leaves; or that they are like brambles on steroids. The species on sale is Calamus rudentum. In the wild it is said to grow up to five hundred feet in length.
The one time I visited Kew Gardens, the Tropical House had a fishtail palm in flower. It was colossal, reaching nearly to the high central roof. It was the foliage that caught my eye. The next year I bought a quartet of Aralia elata and told myself that their high branchless stems and large compound leaves were, besides being attractive in their own right, an acceptable substitute for a fishtail palm. I’ve gone for seeds of Caryota mitis.
Other than those two, there’s borderline hardy Brahea armata and Trithrinax brasilensis var.acanthocoma. I’ve had thoughts of getting hold of these for years. They’re very slow, but worth a punt at under £5 for a packet of seeds.
The final two i’m going for are the queen palm, Syagrus romanzoffiana and the classic Hollywood street tree Washingtonia robusta. The latter is easy to germinate and grows quickly – compared to the average palm.