Palm trees form a quintessential part of the Gold Coast Landscape. Canary Island Date Palms (Phoenix canariensis) were amongst the earliest landscape garden plantings on the Gold Coast seaside parks. These, along with other varieties are often used to create a feature or a focal point in Gold Coast Gardens. The humid climate of the Gold Coast makes many plants susceptible to fungal diseases. This is also true with Phoenix canariensis. As with most plants, pruning will help to improve the airflow around the plant and reduce the chances of a fungal disease like Fusarium oxysporum. This is the fungus which causes fusarium wilt in Phoenix canariensis. When pruning, it is also important to sterilise the pruning tools to avoid spreading diseases between plants. Many fungus spores will survive in the soil, so it is important not to use any soils which may have been contaminated. The Centennial Park in Sydney has seen the destructive impact of the Fusarium wilt on the Canary Island date palms on the Avenue of Nations. As with the Irish potato blight, having all of the plants in an area from the same genetic stock can be a problem when diseases start to spread. If planting new trees make sure you choose disease free stock from a reputable plant supplier.
Pruning Palm Trees
When pruning palm trees it is important to use sharp, sterile and well maintained tools. Heavy gloves and safety glasses need to be worn, as the palm fronds have sharp spikes which can cause a nasty wound or infection. Make sure your ladder is well secured. as even professional tree pruners find this job difficult. Wait until the frond is completely brown before trimming it.
Some other problems to look for in your palm tree include the sugar cane weevil borer and the palm weevil borer. Do not use sugar cane mulch or bagasse near your trees as the female sugar cane weevil is attracted to it. Trees should be mulched with a top quality mulch that contains no palm or sugar cane material. The dead fronds as seen in the picture above, create a shelter for the adult beetles to hide under during daylight. For this reason, it is important to remove these fronds and dispose of them correctly. As with most plants, healthy growth will protect against diseases. Give your palms a good feed with a fertiliser like Neutrog Seamungus that contains nitrogen as well as trace elements like zinc. With a dripper irrigation system and some good rainfall your plants will remain healthy and disease free.
Kentia Palm (Howea fosteriana)
If you are looking for swimming pool landscaping ideas, the Kentia Palm (Howea fosteriana) makes a great plant for creating a luxuriant garden by the pool. It also provides a little shade as well as softening the look of the landscape. Amongst the palms, it is one of the easier ones to maintain.
Also known as the Forster sentry palm or the flat palm, the Kentia Palm has solitary stems bearing large pinnate leaves on long stalks. This evergreen palm is native to Lord Howe island. The Kentia is tolerant to partial shade, and will grow to around 2 metres tall in your poolside garden or pot. This makes it a great plant for creating a little shady spot by the side of your pool. It prefers well drained sandy loam with a neutral to acid PH. It is also a popular indoor plant, so it is a palm you can grow both in an outdoor or indoor pot. Generally, many palm species create a lot of maintenance work, especially when they are planted near a pool. For this reason, we generally recommend other plants for poolside locations with better screening ability and lower maintenance. At our recent swimming pool landscape project in Ashmore we replaced many of the high maintenance palms with low maintenance screening plants.
The biggest mistake I see in the Queensland garden is people using palms to create privacy. A palm should never be used as a screening plant, the bottoms are full of dead fronds, they are messy and tacky. Hedging plants such as a Syzygium smithii ‘resilience’ or Murraya paniculata works as far better screen around pool and window areas. Hedges create less mess, are less maintenance and create a far cleaner look. A palm maintained to its true glory should be used as a feature. It should be lifted allowing light and fresh air in, it should show off its beautiful trunk and preserve only the lush green foliage at top. The same can be said of the banana like plants such as strelitzia nicolai.
Some interesting facts about Palms
Palms are members of the family Arecaceae which is also known as Palmae. Amongst the monocots, Arecaceae have one of the longest fossil records, once thought to extend more than 80 million years ago to the Late Cretaceous Period. Recent research by Dr Bill Baker of the Royal botanical Gardens Kew shows that diversification of extant lineages of palms started about 100 million years ago, during the mid-Cretaceous period. These plant were really around with the dinosaurs. As such an ancient family they give us an insight into the evolution of the rainforest. The Arecaceae are a distinctive and structurally diverse monocot groups. Palms also have collateral, rather than compound, vascular bundles in their stems and silica bodies that are borne in specialized cells (stegmata) throughout. Vessels, often with simple perforation plates, are found in roots, stems, and leaves.
(“Arecales.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica Deluxe Edition. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, 2010.)
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For more information on the Canary Island Date Palm
For more information on the Kentia Palm