Australia and my backyard update from winter

P.J._in_MDApril 30, 2011

I was fortunate to miss the end of winter in Maryland as I was working in Australia for a month. Beautiful country and friendly people...I would recommend visiting if you ever get the chance.

I spent most of my time in Canberra, the nation's capital. Nice countryside with numerous varieties of eucalyptus being the dominant trees in the photo below. The surrounding mountains resemble our Blue Ridge Mountains (3,000 - 5,000 ft range).

Canberra is about 2,000 ft above sea level but has a moderated climate. Even at this elevation, I saw very healthy washingtonia's, trachys, phoenix, and even queen palms in town but they are not widely used at all. The cordyline trees were tall and perfect looking. Here is a phoenix outside town with eucalyptus next to it. Locals tell me native trees do not change color in autumn (which is now). The imported maples, oaks, etc do change color though.

Sydney is only 130 miles from Canberra but appears to have a vastly different climate. Being coastal, the climate is much more moderated and quite humid (not as much as the Gold Coast further North). BTW, for having 4.5 million people, it was one of the cleanest cities I've ever seen.

Shelley Beach with crystal clear water great for snorkeling. Those are Livistona palms at the rear of the beach.

Night scenes:

Some palmy scenes in Sydney harbour:

When I got home, I was pretty disappointed with the damage to the palms from the past winter. Our mid-Atlantic winter was very cold for the daily max temps, relatively easy on the min temps, and brutal winds. Only the trachy's were protected with frost cloth and Christmas lights draped underneath the frost cloth. That appeared to have made a big difference!


THE BAD: My sabal birmingham which loves to die back every winter!

Sabal minor

Yes, this is my McCurtain which actually was under the frost cloth even for quite a while. Given how tough this was the last 4 yrs and how slow they grow, this frustrates me. The emerging spear is fine though.

I also lost another birmingham which I don't have a picture of and 2 other needles both lost their main spears. The needles look awful right now.

With all the rain this Spring, the lawn hasn't looked this good in years.

Finally, my thoughts and prayers go out to all those devastated by the recent storms. Just awful. I took this picture Wed night from my deck. This was the start of 24 hours of continuous storms. My area had 2 severe T'storm warnings and 2 tornado warnings over that time including one funnel cloud. After seeing the South, ours was nothing more than annoying rain! I hope they recover soon and fast.

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Very nice palms.
Just out of interest how do you protect your needle palm.

I plant one every year and it dies of spear pull. This past winter i kept it in a heated container and it still died

    Bookmark   April 30, 2011 at 1:33PM
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Great pics! Australia seems so beautiful! I've always wanted to go, maybe one day!
Your yard is looking great, especially those trachys! I'm a bit disappointed to see the results from your Sabal Minor, Needle, and Birmingham, but most of them should recover. You lawn is looking great! Mine is also looking better than ever because of all the rain!
It seems like you got hit pretty hard by those storms, but like you said, not as bad as it could have been. I hope all those affected by the storm have a quick recovery. The storm wasnt bad at all here, pretty much nothing more than a typical thunderstorm with some more rain than usual. We got very lucky because their were tornado warnings to my north and south, especially to the south.
Thanks for sharing!

    Bookmark   April 30, 2011 at 1:37PM
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Those really are amazing pictures-thanks for sharing them.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2011 at 5:37PM
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I forgot to mention how much I love the water at the beach in your pic! It kind of reminds me of the beaches around my neighborhood (haha, not even close!)

Dennis, did you get both those needle palms from Lowes? All the plants that I get from Home Depot or Lowes really lack cold tolerance. I think I will try a needle palm again in the future, but probably from a place online where they have been growing them outdoors in the cold.


    Bookmark   April 30, 2011 at 5:54PM
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No i got it from walmart but from the same grower as for lowes. I got 3 gallon sabal minor from there and it was defoliated except the spears. My 7 gallon sabal looks great with no damage (from lowes). All were from the same grower and had the same form of protection. There is nice needle palm about a block away from me that looks great every winter despite being unprotected.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2011 at 10:11PM
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Staten Island, really surprised with your Needle
palm problems. I put one in last Summer and left it unprotected, I thought for sure it was a gonner after spending weeks under the heavy snow (especially being newly planted).. But once the snow melted, saw it was fine and suckering. How's your soil drainage?--Palms can pull from more than cold--I've had an occasional one pull in Summer as a result from excessive wetness. Of course, this past winter will be remembered most for extreme WET (mostly snow). PS., Even with spear pull, a palm can recuperate and youe chances are better with survival with a suckering species such as a Needle.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2011 at 10:33PM
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@tropicalzone: thanks. I was amazed with the clarity of the water as well. I was more impressed with the cleanliness given that 4.5 million people live there. It reflects on the city itself, which is very clean. Australia is much stricter with littering and fines than we are in America.

@statenisland: I don't protect any of my needles. My suggestion...but a 5 or 7 gallon from a person/nursery that grows and tests their hardiness in cooler climates. I get most of my palms either from Plant Delights (Raleigh) or Chilly Palm (near Charlotte) rather than a grower from Florida or Texas. North Carolina is much more like our climate than Florida or Texas. BTW, I do have two smaller needles at the front of my house that get harsh northerly winds and they look really beat up. In fact, I lost the main spears on both. One will be ok, the other I'm not sure. good luck.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2011 at 7:50AM
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butiaman(8a Douglasville,GA.)

Great pictures,I've always wanted to go to Australia.Your waggie looks like it didn't receive any damage.Gotta love the toughness of the waggies.I'm surprised at the Birmingham,there supposed to be cold hardy to zero.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2011 at 11:06AM
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P.J. where did you get your waggie

    Bookmark   May 1, 2011 at 11:11AM
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What size is your needle? They really don't show great hardiness for me until they get to a larger size. My 7 gallon has never had more tip burn and I bought it from HD. While a 3 gallon that was left unprotected a few years ago died all the way back except for the pups. However I do agree, I stand by Plant Delights Nursery, Chilly Plam, and Gary's Nursery. At least those plants have the best chance for survival.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2011 at 7:11PM
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@Randy and @statenisland: I got my waggie from Plant delights in 2006. In the last 5 years, I gave it very little, if any, protection. It looks good but this is the first winter I've noticed damage. Is it normal to send out the emerging frond without damage only to have the next one show damage? It's pushing out fast so I'm not too concerned. Odd though.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2011 at 2:28AM
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Mine is doing the same thing,the new leaf is totally fried.

It will grow out of it quick if the weather ever warms up(-:

    Bookmark   May 2, 2011 at 10:14AM
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brooklyngreg(7a NYC coastal plain)


Thanks for the Australian tour and I would consider moving there if I were a little younger:)

I agree winter protection makes a BIG difference in palm survival, especailly for the smaller less established palms. Sorry to hear you lost some. Frost cloth is not enough during a bad winter. Its good for temps dipping below freezing and frost, but not icy winds in the teens and 20s. Some of your palms looked like they'd be ez to cover with winter protetction. Keep us updated.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2011 at 11:04AM
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butiaman(8a Douglasville,GA.)

One of my fortuneis did the same thing as your waggie.My waggie is pushing it's 3rd frond already.I don't understand why people say there slow growing.It's growing faster than any other palm I have,so far.The only damage it got was a little tip burn on a couple fronds.I wish I had more of them.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2011 at 7:27PM
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butiaman...I agree, waggies are fast growing. Last year, I got around 12 fronds which is good for a mid-Atlantic growing season. Waggies are definitely faster than regular trachys.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2011 at 7:58AM
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Waggies are variable,2(out of 3) of mine are
what I consider slow-for a Trachy....4-6 leaves-March-Nov.

The other is "fast" at 10-12 leaves.

The slower ones have proven to be a little more cold resistant-
as is generally the case with the reniform seed Trachys.

Probably should start another thread to talk about(Waggie) Trachys(-:

    Bookmark   May 3, 2011 at 10:01AM
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brooklyngreg(7a NYC coastal plain)

Looks like PJ and Butiaman have the fast waggies.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2011 at 11:59AM
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