Magnolia Garden Club hears about growing palms

Posted 11/6/17

The Magnolia Garden Club met in October, at the home of club President Linda Cross. Cross’s neighbor, avid gardener Dan Black ,and his wife, Dot, were in attendance. Black was the guest speaker for the meeting, sharing his expertise in palms with a program titled “Tropical Gardening, Zone 7." Sheila Webb opened with a devotion titled “A Tale of Two Containers.” She reminded listeners that it is with flexibility and a strong foundational root system that we can face the floods and storms of life. When our roots run deep and our faith is strong, the nourishing rains soak in and sustain us instead of washing away our foundations. Cross conducted the business meeting, drawing attention to upcoming gardening shows and events. She reported Magnolia Garden Club came in second in a recent aluminum can recycling challenge.

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Magnolia Garden Club hears about growing palms

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The Magnolia Garden Club met in October, at the home of club President Linda Cross. Cross’s neighbor, avid gardener Dan Black, and his wife, Dot, were in attendance. Black was the guest speaker for the meeting, sharing his expertise in palms with a program titled “Tropical Gardening, Zone 7." 

Sheila Webb opened with a devotion titled “A Tale of Two Containers.” She reminded listeners that it is with flexibility and a strong foundational root system that we can face the floods and storms of life. When our roots run deep and our faith is strong, the nourishing rains soak in and sustain us instead of washing away our foundations. 

Cross conducted the business meeting, drawing attention to upcoming gardening shows and events. She reported Magnolia Garden Club came in second in a recent aluminum can recycling challenge.

Speaker Black shared information about his interest in growing palms. He grew up in South Carolina. When he eventually relocated to Cleveland after spending seven years in South Dakota, he discovered several varieties of palms that grow in this region. In fact, Needle Palms, native to this area, are among the hardiest palms in the world, tolerant to 17 degrees below zero; Black’s own specimens have survived to 4 degrees with no protection. 

Temperate Zone Palms, those most suited to this area, need a cold winter and a hot summer with lots of sunshine. There are two kinds of palms: fan palms and feather leaf or pinnate palms. The fan leaf palms are more tolerant of cold. Black has many varieties of palms in his garden; Windmill Palms, Needle Palms, and Dwarf Palmettos are among the most prominent. Black says his Dwarf Palmettos and Windmill Palms are hardy to zero degrees or below. European Fan Palms also tolerate the climate here; temperatures below zero harm them, although they will grow back. 

According to Black, palms grow in just about any kind of soil if it’s not soggy wet or standing water. The roots are the most sensitive part of a palm. Black recommends covering them with straw, not mulch. A palm plant will fill mulch with roots; the plant becomes dependent on this root system which is vulnerable in winter, oftentimes killing the plant. He says that planting palms on a mound where rain doesn’t soak in is another common mistake.
Palms are in the grass family. He treats his palms like “big stalks of grass” and feeds them with ‘Miracle Gro’ during the spring and summer. He is careful not to use time release fertilizers as this could make palms more sensitive, killing them in the winter. Palms grow all year long, but grow faster in the summer than in the winter. 

Black prunes his palms to keep them looking good. He removes dead leaves and will sometimes cut fronds back “so wind can’t tear them up.” His oldest is a windmill palm that is 21 years old. 

Black’s garden also features a banana grove which is 5 years old, and several fig trees. He started the banana grove from just two plants of a variety considered cold hardy. He cuts the plants to the ground before winter and mulches them. They have grown to a sizable stand of beautiful fronds that are the envy of neighbors all around. The two varieties of fig that Black finds to be the best for growing and eating in Zone 7 are Turkey Brown and Tennessee Mountain figs.

Following a delicious barbecue meal served by Cross, members enjoyed a tour of Black’s property. Members took advantage of this guided tour to ask questions of the guest speaker. Black generously donated a 2-year old windmill palm potted specimen to club members for a drawing — won by Elsie Yates.

Other members in attendance were Annette Stanbery, Fredricka Lawson, Ginger Cloud, Nancy Frey, Cecile Broz, Patsy Bettis and Brenda Nakdimen. Club members will meet again in January, following a winter break.

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