Palm trees form a quintessential part of the Melbourne Landscape.
Palm trees such as the Canary Island Date Palms (Phoenix canariensis) were amongst the earliest landscape garden plantings in Melbourne seaside parks. These, along with other varieties are often used to create a feature or a focal point in Melbourne Gardens. The climate of the Melbourne can make 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
Palm Tree Cleaning Melbourne
When pruning these 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.
Palm tree diseases prevented by pruning.
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.
Garden maintenance for your Melbourne Palm trees.
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.
Tree pruning tools.
When tree pruning, it is important to make sure your chain saw and pruning saws are sharp and well sterilised. This will help prevent palm tree diseases moving from plant to plant. A 50/50 mixture of bleach and water or some methylated spirits will help sterilise your pruning saw.
Weevil and borer damage to trees.
Keeping the fronds neatly trimmed will remove a hiding place for pest. Insecticide and fungicide is applied at the same time to prevent disease. It looks like the help came to late to help the tree below.
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 garden design 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.)
For help with the design and development or your landscaping ideas, contact one of our experienced Landscape Gardeners. We can help with small garden design all the way up to Commercial Landscape design. Our specialities include fast growing screening plants, plant health and horticulture, garden lighting and outdoor pool landscaping ideas.
By Callum O’Brien – The Melbourne Landscaper Blog
For more information on the Canary Island Date Palm
For more information on the Kentia Palm