Following Ike, there’s been a lot of discussion on what plants should be used to replace the thousands of Live Oaks etc. lost to the storm. One group of plant materials that did better than most were palms. Regardless of species, most palms seemed to hold up well in the face of wind, rain and saltwater.
Selecting the right palm for the Texas Upper Gulf Coast area takes some careful consideration. Size, shape, even cost are all important factors – but the most important thing to consider is cold hardiness. I cautioned a number of my fellow gardening friends about the potential for freeze damage if (or should I say when) we got a really cold snap.
So – totally disregarding my own sage advice, I immediately planted a beautiful, 15 gallon Foxtail palm. A species with a known lack of cold hardiness. It was obviously the right plant for the right place because it almost doubled in size in just one growing season. In fact this success story prompted me to plant another Foxtail (around late August ‘09) in the front of our small house. By this time last year both were looking fantastic. Then – welcome the winter of 2009-10.
I carefully wrapped both trees hoping to protect them from the blast of cold air that hung over Galveston for what seemed like weeks. It was apparent almost immediately that my efforts were in vain when a large crack appeared at the base of the larger Foxtail. The smaller, more recently planted specimen looked like it had been hit by a flame thrower, so I knew it too was a goner. To quote someone… “no wounds are as painful as those which are self-inflicted.”
I left both Foxtails in place until spring hoping for some kind of miracle. The bigger of the two continued to go down hill rapidly and I knew it was time to dig it up and re-plant. Digging that sucker out was tough. The root system was massive and it took most of a hot afternoon to extricate it from the planting site. I then replace it with – another 15 gallon Foxtail. Stupid, yes but I love the scale, shape and growth habit of this plant and I’ll be better prepared next time the weatherman says an Artic cold front is headed our way (not sure what that means exactly but it makes me feel better about my choice).
As for the smaller of the 2 Foxtails in front of the house, a miracle of sorts did occur. One small, green frond shot up from the center of the hideous trunk. There it sat, all season long. Not elongating, not developing, just sitting there as if to mock me. But I didn’t have the heart to yank it up. It was a survivor and in some weird way deserved a chance to make it. Now 2 more knurly looking leaves have appeared. I’m sure passersby’s wonder why I have this odd looking specimen in the middle of our otherwise well-manicured landscape. Getting sentimentally attached to plants doesn’t always make for good gardening.