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  • Writer's pictureMartin Ford

Pines and Palms

Both are mysterious to present day people. We are far more familiar with grand, broad-leaf trees than with Conifers and Palms, which make up a smaller part of the plant kingdom called monocotyledons and are less talked about. Conifers and Palms are nearly all Evergreens and generally have narrow and upright profiles without large spreading canopies. Historically we have been more impressed by the much more extensive and potentially vast canopies of dicotyledons such as Oaks and Maples and thus they have tended to be the focus of our street and garden designs.

In the north, Conifers are part of the original landscape and as we create landscapes around our homes, we do include these native specimen trees. In hotter climates Palms are naturalized and therefore become part of the landscapes which we devise for warmer climates. The Palm is very diverse in leaf form and can be extraordinary – one leaf shown here (Black Palm) is huge – 15 feet or more in length and 8 feet wide – this offers a very different visual effect. They have both the largest leaf and the largest fruit of any plant. A Raffina Palm leaf is 24 metres long and 3 metres wide! And the king of Coconuts (Lodorcin) bears fruit that can weigh 15-30 kilograms each!

In these pictures we can see how the very different leaf form creates a visually interesting contrast to deciduous trees. Palms are generally very tough plants with an unusual root system which is very dense and fibrous and therefore relatively easy to transplant. These were planted 15 years ago, and the fast-growing Black Palm is 25 feet tall. Palms, like Conifers, are a very successful plant in our landscapes and give us many interesting design choices.


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