Kepaniwai Park Heritage Gardens

It is hard to believe that the dense rainforests and jagged peaks of Maui’s Iao Valley were once the scene of some of the bloodiest battles in King Kamehameha the Great’s quest to unify the Hawaiian Islands. In the 1790s, during the height of the conflict, there were so many warriors slain that their bodies blocked the stream. That battle was called Kepaniwai, which in English means “damming of the waters.”

The history of Iao Valley goes back more than 1,000 years. Ancient Hawaiians gathered in the valley for their annual makahiki festival. This celebration honoured Lono, the God of agriculture. Before Captain Cook put Hawaii on the European map, the valley was a major population center and the largest farming area in the islands. Taro farmers had their hales, or cottages on the slopes and along the valley floor. Fishermen lived along the shores of marine rich Kahului Bay. That all changed by the late 1800s. By then sugar was king and the water that was once used to irrigate island crops was diverted to nourish the cane fields. Iao Valley became the Hawaiian equivalent of a ghost town.

Today Iao Valley is a State Park. Hiking trails wind through the valley’s floors. Visitors are asked to stay on the trails, as the Iao Valley is a burial ground for many of Hawaii’s ali’i, or royalty. Steps lead you up to the top of the Iao Valley Needle. The needle, a pointed spire made of volcanic basalt, was once used as a lookout for warriors during times of war but now offers a panoramic view of the valley and beyond.

Just outside the park, the Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens, taking its name from the battle described above, is a memorial to those ancient Hawaiians as well as the many cultures that followed. Stroll the pathways past a New England Salt Box house complete with white picket fence and flagstone patio. Visit a restored ancient Hawaiian hale with its lava rock walls and thatched roof and a Portuguese outdoor oven surrounded by a European style garden complete with Virgin Mary statue. A Chinese Moon Gate graces one of the entryways, and a bold aqua and pink Korean Pavilion overlooks its own garden, graced by a statue of the God Haitai. Explore a replica of a bamboo walled Filipino Nipa Hut.

The Japanese Gardens, representing those from that nation that came in the mid 1800s to work the cane fields, include an authentic tea house and two Japanese temples, one of them large enough to walk through. Pathways lead over arched stone bridges spanning koi filled ponds and past carved stone pagodas and lanterns. A life size bronze statue of two Japanese field workers greets visitors to the collection of tropical flowers and carefully sculptured trees. Designed by garden architect Richard Tongg, Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens is just off of Highway 32 in Central Maui.

Orchids Listed

These very beautiful plants have tended to suffer from a bad press. There seems to be a general impression that they are very difficult to grow, requiring dedication, patience and special growing conditions. Some do but many are easy-going plants that most gardeners can succeed with.

Probably the most limiting factor in your choice of orchids is the severity of frost your garden experiences and the amount of winter rainfall. There are a few very hardy orchids but most of the more commonly grown genera are somewhat frost tender though few require sub-tropical conditions.

Winter rainfall is an important consideration if you intend to grow the hardy terrestrial orchids such as Pleione orCymbidium outdoors. Too much rain combined with cold weather will cause rotting.

The native orchids are seldom cultivated except by dedicated enthusiasts. They are mainly hardy plants but seldom do well in cultivation. Some species have very precise growing requirements.

Doubtless you will be able to grow a wider range and achieve greater success if you can build some sort of green house or other protective structure. This doesn’t need to be anything very elaborate. A simple lean-to structure attached to a garage will be perfectly adequate in most cases.

Orchid Cultivation

Growing Conditions

Orchids vary considerably in their demands. Some need the conditions that only a heated greenhouse can provide, others will grow outdoors under normal conditions, most fall somewhere between the two extremes. Enthusiasts don’t baulk at the power bills that growing warm temperature orchids bring but most of would find them too expensive. However a wide range can be grown with minimal heating or even in an unheated frost free greenhouse.

Cymbidium, Cattleya, Odontoglossum, Paphiopedilum, Coleogyne and Lycaste are some of the more tender genera that can be grown without having to use too much extra heating. They get by perfectly well with winter minimums of 10°C and will tolerate lower temperatures for short periods. Cymbidium and some Coleogyne species can be grown outside year round in frost free areas.

In many ways the hardy outdoor species are more difficult to grow. Not because they can’t tolerate the cold but because of other seasonal factors, such as humidity levels and rainfall. The most commonly grown is Bletilla striatabut it is seldom a spectacular plant. Pleione is a more interesting genus. Often grown in alpine houses these hardy terrestrial orchids may be grown in gardens if special attention is given to drainage and siting.

Orchids generally require bright indirect light. Most will tolerate direct sunlight for a few hours a day but not through glass. Many orchids will tolerate poor light for extended periods but their flowering will be adversely affected.

Maintaining the humidity above 50% is important, below this orchids will suffer, 65%–90% is preferable. The easiest way to achieve this in a greenhouse is to spray the floor and other surfaces with water. The evaporating moisture will raise the humidity. In winter lower humidity levels are preferable; the plants are not so active at this time and lower humidity will lessen the prevalence of fungus diseases.

Good ventilation is also important in preventing fungus diseases. Those inexperienced in greenhouse growing tend to close all the vents in winter to keep in as much heat as possible but good ventilation is just as important as maintaining the right temperature. When temperatures rise in summer adequate ventilation is the best means of avoiding overheating. As a rule a greenhouse should have a vent area roughly equal to a third of the floor area.


There are several styles of greenhouses available to the home gardener. Which you choose will be dictated by the conditions you wish to maintain and the price you can afford to pay.

In the long run the commercially made metal framed glass is house is the cheapest to run but the initial outlay is high. Plastic skinned tunnel houses are a cheaper alternative but they require re-skinning every five years or so.

The cheapest alternative is an entirely home built greenhouse and in many ways it’s also the most satisfactory. Doing it yourself means that you get the size and design that you want. The work involved shouldn’t tax even a mediocre carpenter.

The construction doesn’t need to be anything elaborate. A simple wooden framework will be quite adequate. 100mm × 50mm timber is heavy enough for the main structure with 50mm × 50mm for intermediate support and bracing. Anything lighter than 50mm × 50mm is likely to warp excessively. Use only ground treated timber, H4 grade or better.

Painting the woodwork white will reflect more light but most greenhouses are bright enough. Painting or staining will, however, extend the life of the timber.

Very few of us are competent glaziers so plastic skinning is the preferred covering. Use proper horticultural film of at least 140 microns but preferably the 200 micron grade. Rigid fibreglass or polycarbonate sheeting is a longer lasting alternative but is expensive for all but very small structures.

Secure the plastic with 50mm × 12mm battening strips. Where the plastic meets the ground either secure it to a partially buried wooden beam at ground level or leave some surplus that can be buried. This should eliminate drafts at ground level, which can be very damaging.

Unless you have a proper double skinned or double glazed greenhouse you will need to add extra insulation in winter. The bubble plastic used in packaging is effective but better still are the horticultural grade infra-red reflecting plastics. These can be stapled to a wood framed house or taped to a metal frame.

In most parts of the country some form of winter heating will be necessary. Electricity is the easiest to use and probably the most economical as electric heaters can be run off simple thermostats for maximum efficiency. Kerosene, natural gas and coal boilers are alternatives but they require careful setting and maintenance, are often expensive to install, and may produce poisonous fumes.


The traditional terracotta pot has long been favoured for orchids. These have the advantage of being porous, which means there are no drainage problems and the roots are kept well aerated. Unfortunately terracotta pots are expensive when compared to plastic and they are easily broken, consequently plastic is now the more widely used material.

Most pots are suitable just as they are but make sure they have adequate drainage holes. Extra holes are easily made in plastic pots either with drills or a heated metal rod, such as the tip of a soldering iron.

Hanging baskets made of wire or interlaced wooden strips are alternatives to traditional pots. Unlike the hanging baskets used for regular plants these are usually not lined. Instead a very coarse soil mix that will not fall through the holes is used. If necessary a thin lining of sphagnum moss will keep the mix in place.

Epiphytic orchids can be often be grown in pots with very coarse potting mix but are better grown in the hanging basket type container. This is because their roots can reach the air more easily. Some epiphytic orchids resent being confined in containers, these are best grown on slabs of tree fern or other bark. Until the roots gain hold the plants will need to be firmly tied to the support with a strong but unobtrusive thread.

Potting Mixes

Orchid mixes are very coarse and open compared to the more familiar potting mixes. Those unfamiliar with this type of soil wonder how it can possibly retain enough moisture for plant growth.

The answer is in the nature of the orchids grow habit. Most orchids have a conspicuous food storage organ known as a pseudobulb. The plants can survive for considerable periods on the reserves stored in the pseudobulb. The roots serve to recharge the pseudobulb and operate best in well drained and aerated soils. Too much moisture or too little air will rot the roots and ultimately the pseudobulb.

Orchid roots actually attach themselves to the soil material and so bind the soil to the plant. Anyone that has ever tried to clear the soil mix from Cymbidium will be familiar with the way the roots grasp the larger chunks of bark or fern fibre.

Most modern orchid mixes are made from composted bark. Regular bark based mixes can be used if they are sieved to remove the very fine material. The fine sievings can be used as seed raising or cutting mixes for other plants.

Even this mix may retain moisture for too long so add some coarse bark or polystyrene bubbles. Experiment with these materials until you have an extremely free draining open mix.

Watering and Nutrients

The mix should not remain obviously wet for more than a day or so after watering. Prolonged or repeated periods in wet soil will lead to rotted roots.

Watering is not so much a matter of how often to water but how quickly the plant dries out between waterings. Epiphytic orchids usually need to dry out within a day or two of watering or they may rot. Terrestrial orchids tend to prefer soils that retain moisture longer.

Your soil mix consistency will go a long way to avoiding any rotting problems. Keep the mix open and coarse for epiphytes and a little more dense and moisture retentive for terrestrials. Once you have the right soil consistency when to water is generally quite apparent. This all seems more than a little vague but it’s really a matter of experience.

Although orchid soil mixes may seem to be very lacking in nutrients most of the common genera will thrive in them, however, like any plants they will eventually need feeding. There are a number of pre-mixed orchid fertilisers available and most are quite satisfactory provided the directions are followed. Do not overfeed orchids; they are quite easily killed by that sort of kindness.

Enthusiasts will blend their own fertilisers but most home gardeners would be better to stick to a commercial formula. If you do want to make up your own mix it pays to thoroughly research the particular plant’s requirements.


The easiest method of propagation is division of the clusters of pseudobulbs. This eventually has to be done even if you don’t require more plant as an orchid in an overcrowded pot will eventually cease to flower.

Some orchids will produce stems with aerial roots. These can be removed from the parent plant and grown on. Orchids with rhizomes rather than obvious pseudobulbs can be divided or pieces of rooted rhizome can be removed and grown on.

Growing from seed is another method but requires care. Orchid seed is generally very fine and seldom germinates well if sown on soil in the usual manner. The accepted method is to sow the seed in sterile flasks on a nutrient enriched agar jelly.

The exact make-up of the nutrient solution varies from genus to genus. If you wish to try this method contact your local horticultural society or orchid society for details of some of the more common formulas.

Tissue culture is widely used in commercial orchid propagation. Cultured plants are available from specialist growers.

Pests and Diseases

Orchids grown indoors are subject to the same pests and diseases as most greenhouse plants. You will probably be familiar with aphids, slugs, snails, mites and scale insects but mealy bugs are less commonly seen under normal garden conditions.

Mealy bugs have an unusual appearance. They are covered with a white powder and fine white hairs. They feed by sap sucking and leaf rasping and may be quite debilitating if present in large numbers.

Probably the most common disease is sooty mould caused by a fungus that grows on the honeydew secreted by feeding insects. The cure for this involves first removing the insects and then spraying with a fungicide, such as mancozeb, to halt the mould.

Most other fungus problems, such as root rots and leaf spotting, can be traced to poor growing conditions, especially overwatering and poor ventilation.

Orchids may also become infected with viruses. These often appear as unusually marked patches on the leaves, flowers or stems or may simply result in stunted growth. Nothing can be done to cure virus infected plants so if badly affected they are best got rid of.

Orchid Selection

There are hundreds of orchid genera, many very closely allied to one another. The following is a selection of a few of the more commonly grown.


The ‘Chinese Ground Orchid’ (B. striata) is a hardy deciduous species. Remarkable for its ease of cultivation rather than its flamboyance. Will grow in any moist garden soil in light shade. Magenta to purple flowers from spring.


Spectacular and reasonably tough plants. They are easy for beginners and often represent the next step afterCymbidiumCattleya is a mainly epiphytic genus and develops large pseudobulbs that enable the plants to withstand some drought. They prefer to dry out between waterings and prefer lightly shaded conditions.


A large genera many of the species of which are fairly hardy and may be grown outdoors in genuinely frost free areas. Most need cool summer temperatures and are an ideal choice for a shadehouse. They prefer light shade and shelter from winter rain. Usually flowers from late winter.


Without doubt the most widely grown orchid genera. Tough and adaptable Cymbidium is the ideal choice for the beginner. Plants are available in a huge range of colours and flower patterns. Able to tolerate extended periods with overnight temperatures of 5°C and drought tolerant. It’s very hard to kill a Cymbidium but they do so much better when looked after.

Capable of being grown outside year round in many areas. Medium to high light levels are preferred. The soil should be allowed to dry between waterings in winter but should be kept moist when the plants are in active growth. Feed regularly. May flower at any season but usually from late winter to late spring.


There are native species but those commonly grown are exotic. They require reasonably warm nigh temperatures; preferably not below 12°C. Most develop conspicuous pseudobulbs and produce their flowers on long canes.


The common ‘Crucifix Orchid’ (E. ibaguense) is the best known of this genus. Most species will tolerate some frost and are good in shadehouses. Not spectacular but unusual. The aerial roots are a feature. Rather tall but excess growth with aerial roots can be removed and grown on. No pseudobulbs.


Mainly epiphytic orchids that will tolerate cool conditions. Most species will grow outdoors if frost free. Prefers light shade and should be allowed to dry between waterings. May be grown on bark slabs. Many of the species flower in autumn and winter.


Easily cultivated epiphytic orchids. Their culture is very similar to Cymbidium. They prefer cool summer temperatures and will tolerate winter lows of 5°C. Allow to dry in winter but keep moist in summer. Some of the species are deciduous. The long strap-like leaves can become untidy and are easily damaged.


These epiphytic orchids prefer low to medium light levels and high humidity. Best in cool even temperatures; winter lows of around 5°C to summer highs of not more than 23°C. Some species do well outdoors in genuinely frost free areas. They prefer even moisture throughout the year but must not be overwatered. This genus does not produce pseudobulbs.


Often grown in pans in alpine houses and capable of standing some frost. The flowers resemble Cattleya but the plants are considerably smaller. Fully dormant in winter. Plant in gritty soil and water and feed once actively growing.


Not too demanding but intolerant of very bright conditions. Able to tolerate overnight winter temperatures of 8°C or slightly lower. They like cool daytime temperatures. Often better in a shadehouse over summer. Allow to dry in winter but keep moist when growing. May be grown on bark slabs.


A very complex grouping of related genera. They require bright conditions and winter lows of not less than 10°C. The flowers are spectacular and freely produced on healthy plants. Miltonia is a closely related genus. Many intergeneric forms exist.


Commonly known as the slipper orchid due to the flower’s prominent pouch. Easily grown but many require warm conditions with temperatures above 15°C. The tougher species will tolerate 8-10°C for short periods. Day temperatures should be below 25°C. This narrow temperature range is the main barrier to success. They prefer low to medium light and should be kept moist throughout the year.


The ‘Moth Orchids’ demand warm temperatures with winter minimums of 15°C although they will tolerate 12°C or lower for brief periods. They prefer low to medium light and high humidity. They need plenty of air at the roots and are best grown in baskets in a very coarse mix.


Often tall plants with very prominent aerial roots. Some species will tolerate winter lows down to 8°C but most are more tender. They prefer bright light and plenty of summer moisture but they should be allowed to dry over winter. High humidity is preferable. Stems with aerial roots may be removed and grown on as new plants. The best known species V. coerulea is autumn to winter flowering and one of the hardiest.

Your own Japanese Garden, part two

In my previous article I wrote about considerations and decisions to be taken when you are going to build your own Japanese garden. In this article I’ll elaborate on that.

As the Japanese garden evolved over 15 centuries it is difficult to label or “put in a box”. As there are many garden types in Japan, to typify it as (just) “a Japanese garden” is not enough. It is not workable nor does it do justice. The differences between e.g. a Tea-garden and Karesansui-garden are just too big to talk about in general terms when working on a design.

It is important to know what type of Japanese garden you are “planning” so you can name it and focus on the relevant characteristics. There are of course commonalities between all Japanese garden types but these are often not the subject of discussion. It is required to typify it one degree more precise to be able to successfully realize a Japanese garden, either of a single type or a composition of divers elements and compartments.

One of the first thoughts should be: “what type of Japanese garden do I want to realize ?” Then when decided upon, this typification can become the basis for further study, investigation, discussion, architecture design and elaboration.

Use of Archetypes of gardens according to the Tokyo Agricultural University has proved to be a good approach. Then you can talk about your Japanese “Tea garden” or “Zen garden” or perhaps a combination of elements from different garden (arche)types. The Tokyo Agricultural University recognizes eight archetypes. To make this workable and pragmatic we often see this brought back to 4 or 5 archetypes or main garden types, e.g based on themes or application.

Heian Aristocrats gardens for worship and leisure, Palace gardens, Temple gardens and Nobles-men’s gardens, including Tea gardens and dry rock gardens.
Strolling and pond garden, Natural (Paradise) garden, flat garden, sand and stone or dry rock garden, tea garden.

Nowadays the Japanese typically categorize their gardens into three broad types.

  • Tsukiyama gardens typically feature artificial hills combined with a pond and a stream, plants, shrubs, and trees.
  • Karesansui or dry landscape garden.
  • Chaniwa or tea-garden, attached to the tea-ceremony.

Following the complete list of eight garden archetypes according to Tokyo Agricultural University (in time from 6th Century until modern day):

  • Ceremony Worship ceremonies, including routes for worshiping.
  • Leisure The ancient capital 1300 years ago: Today a legacy from the past.
  • Paradise Representation of Paradise on Earth. Joruri-ji Temple, in the hills near Nara, is the only existing Heian-era Amida Hall with nine images of Amida representing the nine levels of enlightenment.
  • Zen Ryoan-ji is regarded the archetype Zen or karesansui (dry rock) garden.
  • Buke(-zukuri) A style of residential architecture in use among the bushi or warrior class.
  • Tea Garden and house dedicated to the Tea Ceremony, Cha-no-yu. Highly influenced by Buddhism in particular Zen.
  • Theme
    Katsura Imperial Villa is a circuit style garden with small and large islands connected by bridges.
    Kenroku-en is “a strolling-style landscape garden”. “Kenroku-en” literally means “garden that combines six characteristics”. Grouped in their traditional complementary pairs, they are spaciousness & seclusion, artifice & antiquity, water-courses & panoramas.
    Both gardens take full advantage of seasonal change.
  • Modern Gardens from the last century and a half.
    A “new type of karesansui garden” or “modern karesansui garden” by Shigemori Mirei.
    This type is not (yet) included in the list but gets more and more recognition as a distinct type, perhaps not so much as a new archetype.

An other style-element regards complexity or the degree of elaboration of a garden(compartment). The book Tsukiyama teizoden names three:

  • Shin, very elaborate and formal.
  • Gyo, intermediate and semi-formal.
  • So, the simplest informal.

Is then “So”, the simplest of all, the Zen version ? Not so.
The complexity here relates to the number of elements and objects like: scenes, hills, rocks, stone, tree’s, bushes and other objects and level of detail in a garden. Some Zen gardens have lots of them and hence are not So.

The symbolism, not to mention superstitious beliefs, as such mean little to many (most ?) of us. However symbolism sometimes has a direct impact on the aesthetics of a garden that can not be neglected. Hence you need to take symbolism into account and bring it into the garden if it in your eyes, enhances the appearance and appreciation.
The same is true for the geomancy, nowadays popularised as Feng Shui, (fusui in Japanese) Yin Yang and the Japanese equivalents and interpretations like Yi and the Five Phases as described in the garden book Sakuteiki and older text like Huainanzi which precedes the Five Phase Encyclopedia by about 600 years.
The essence regarding aesthetics from the opening words in the Sakuteiki can be leading for designers:

” In making the garden, you should first understand the overall principles.”

  1. According to the lay of the land, and depending upon the aspects of the water landscape, you should design each part of the garden tastefully, recalling your memories of how nature presented itself for each feature.
  2. Study the examples of work left by the past masters, and considering the desires of the owner of the garden, you should create a work of your own by exercising your tasteful sense.
  3. Think over the famous places of scenic beauty throughout the land, and by making it your own that which appeals to you most, design your garden with the mood of harmony, modelling after the general air of such places.

In the modern translation of the Sakuteiki the authors see three aspects of Buddhism reflected in the garden. The third relating to the aspect of Buddhism by which the religion is seen as a protector of the individual. Inserting specific Buddhist elements in the garden was done for reasons similar to those for introducing elements that had geomantic influence. Both the Buddhist elements and the geomantic elements were perceived as protecting the household. If you are not a follower of Feng Shui, then you only have to take into account these aspects for the impact on the aesthetics of the garden and under the assumption that it will not enhance the appearance and appreciation when seen or experienced by a spectator without a thorough background of the rules and taboosimi or kinki. If you are a follower of Feng Shui then this is a whole different story.
Whatever the case the garden you create must give you the right “feel”, or better “fuzei”.

The picture: Kanji for fuzei in the Japanese flag. Fuzei: “Aesthetic sense” in Sakuteiki the 11th century treatise on Garden Making, the oldest and most revered Japanese text on garden design.

Piet Patings, Tsubo-en Zen-garden,

Witch hazels for winter colour

There’s no denying that winter can be a drab time in the garden and that deciduous shrubs and trees can be rather dull at this time of year, but that’s no reason to write them off entirely, as so many gardeners seem wont to do.

Not only do deciduous shrubs and trees have interesting branch structures — a bonus often overlooked after their autumn colour — some of them flower in winter. Many of those that do, such as wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox) and winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima), have highly fragrant flowers but they’re not very showy.

Among the exceptions, however, are the witch hazels (Hamamelis spp.). Not only are their flowers often very spicily scented, they’re usually bright shades of yellow, orange and russet red. Sure, the spidery-petalled blooms aren’t that large, but appearing as they do on bare-stems, they really stand out.

The flowers also have an interesting habit that enables them to withstand the cold they must endure while flowering in winter: the flowers open or close in relation to the temperature. So on cold cloudy days and at night they remain closed, but as soon as the weather warms they open and are ready for business again.

Like most of the common deciduous genera, Hamamelis is northern hemisphere-based. There are five species and they are found in the temperate parts of Europe, East Asia and North America. Despite the common name, the genus is not related to the edible hazel nuts, but is in a separate family: the Hamamelidaceae. The name witch hazel comes from early American settlers who saw a resemblance to European hazel and who used the twigs as water divining rods, giving rise to an earlier common name — water witch.

The name hamamelis means “together with fruit” and refers to the plants’ habit of carrying leaf buds, flowers and seed pods of the previous year all at the same time; something believed to be unique among North American trees.

Four species are most often seen in gardens: H. japonica from Japan, H. mollis from western and central China, andH. vernalis and H. virginiana from the southern and central United States. Extracts of the bark and leaves ofHamamelis virginiana are used in cosmetics and eye drops. European settlers acquired their knowledge of witch hazel astringents from Native Americans who had used them for many years, mainly for their styptic properties.

Most garden plants, however, are not species but hybrids of the group classified as H. × intermedia. Their parentage is H. japonica × H. mollis and they are generally smaller than the species but with larger and more colourful flowers.

Among the best known and most commonly available H. × intermedia hybrids are: ‘Arnold Promise’, dense clusters of bright yellow flowers; ‘Diane’, orange-yellow darkening to russet red; ‘Jelena’, orange and gold darkening to bronze red; ‘Primavera’; soft primrose yellow; and ‘Ruby Glow’, bright copper red flowers and reliable autumn foliage colour.

There are also several selected forms of H. mollis, but they don’t show such a variation in colour, being mainly yellow shades. Those you’ll most likely see are ‘Goldcrest’, which has bright yellow flowers with a maroon basal blotch, and ‘Pallida’, which has soft sulphur yellow flowers.

In areas with distinct seasons, witch hazels often develop attractive orange and red autumn foliage tones. In mild climates the seasons are often not differentiated sharply enough for these colours to be seen at their best.


Witch hazels are not difficult to grow in a suitable climate. They are very hardy to frost and actually require some winter cold to be at their best. In mild northern areas they may not get the necessary winter chilling to produce good flowering wood and to ensure that the foliage drops completely to reveal the flowers. However, provided your garden sees the occasional light frost, the climatic requirements aren’t too much of a problem.

Witch hazels are otherwise undemanding. Simply give them well-drained soil, an occasional watering in summer and a position in sun or morning shade. If any pruning is required, and it’s rare that anything more than a light trim is necessary, then do it immediately after flowering.

Provided they have been container-grown, witch hazels can be planted out at any time. Open-ground-raised plants should be planted in winter, which is also when any transplanting should be done. Witch hazels of almost any size can be successfully transplanted when dormant.


Several other member of the Hamamelidaceae family are also valuable additions to the range of winter flowering plants. My favourite is Sycopsis sinensis, a near-evergreen tree from the Himalayas, China and, surprisingly, Malaysia. Its flowers are unscented and relatively small but are beautiful shades of cream, yellow and orange. They’re well worth close inspection. You might also consider the Persian ironbark (Parrotia persica), which, like the witch hazels, is deciduous and flowers when it has no leaves. It is a native of Northern Iran, and while its unscented red flowers are interesting, its most attractive features are its multi-coloured flaking bark and vivid autumn foliage.

CorylopsisFothergilla and Loropetalum are other fairly common genera that belong to the witch hazel family.

Gnarly Branches, Ancient Trees

(c) Dan Robinson
(c) Dan Robinson

As you read this book you can feel the emotion of understanding, an understanding that bonds the ‘Author to the Artist‘.
From the moment that Will and Dan first met, when Dan explained to Will the true pronunciation of the word
Bonsai, as Bone-sigh and not Bonzai (The karate kid yelled voice with a chop to match), this friendship was moulded.

This book is more than a story of a life enriched by trees. It is a descriptive piece that leads you the reader into an understanding of this great American pioneer, a depiction that details the challenges in Dan’s life in more than just creating ’Gnarly’ masterpieces.

The main character, the artist, the champ as we used to say for our favourite western flicks is known to his peers as the ’Picasso of Bonsai’, a pioneer who coined the phrase ’Phoenix Grafts’. A ‘Phoenix Graft’ is a technique were you bond a dead tree with a younger tree using various techniques.

Dan is also known as the man who changed the traditional styling of Bonsai to new techniques back in 78’. Very much a western style, a controversial technique using power tools for designing and crafting his trees, it is a technique that has been adopted globally since.

The imaginary in this book is awe inspiring, it is an inspirational piece of work that will bring you through the journey of this great man’s life.

(c) Craig Coussins
(c) Craig Coussins
There was a Bonsai Master in Japan in the mid 20th century . His name was Kitamura. He had a small but important school and his philosophy was to buy Bonsai , deconstruct these and create a more natural tree image. Far too many wonderful and well know Bonsai are artifice. They are indeed beautiful but they do not look like trees.
What Dan Robinson does at one end of the spectrum is allow a tree to develop naturally with some controls as to the shape. However, what Dan does is collect very old Yamadori that he keeps alive and just allows these to continue in style along the lines from which it was growing naturally. Dan can crate a Bonsai in as accepted a style as any other experienced master but he tries to retain the natural image of the collected tree. Based on his methodology of the age of these Yamadori, some are in excess of 1000 years old. What in any ones name would you wish to do to a tree that was already a dwarfed by nature tree other than appreciate the image of the tree itself.
I have many Yamadori as do many growers, but many of the trees that we collected need forming , branches need to be grown, buds developed and at last we can see the tree in the wood. Just look at some of my books and you will see what I mean. Branches on great trunks may be long whippy things and I need to inarch and graft, bend and shape the branch into an acceptable (to me as the artist) shape of a tree in nature. Not a highly sculpted shape that bears little resemblance to what I am used to IN MY AREA. And that is the key. I create trees that I am comfortable with. Trees that I see around me.
When I teach in other countries I create trees that I see in that area. . I try to make the image into a tree. I use every technique available to me to get to that point but I always try to end up with a tree that I can see outside in the mountains, valets and even the fields. I should stipulate that what I mean is that I try to make trees that are nice trees in nature. Yes, I realise that many trees in nature are a mess but I am not talking about those. You have seen many trees that are lovely-again look at the trees in my books which I photograph in Nature and you will see and hopefully, agree with me.
That was what Kitamura was trying to do. He wanted to make small trees not ornamental shrubs with spectacular trunks and little else to say ’I am a tree’

Article by Craig Coussins on Dan Robinson.

There was a Bonsai Master in Japan in the mid 20th century . His name was Kitamura. He had a small but important school and his philosophy was to buy Bonsai , deconstruct these and create a more natural tree image. Far too many wonderful and well know Bonsai are artifice. They are indeed beautiful but they do not look like trees.

What Dan Robinson does at one end of the spectrum is allow a tree to develop naturally with some controls as to the shape. However, what Dan does is collect very old Yamadori that he keeps alive and just allows these to continue in style along the lines from which it was growing naturally. Dan can crate a Bonsai in as accepted a style as any other experienced master but he tries to retain the natural image of the collected tree. Based on his methodology of the age of these Yamadori, some are in excess of 1000 years old. What in any ones name would you wish to do to a tree that was already a dwarfed by nature tree other than appreciate the image of the tree itself.

I have many Yamadori as do many growers, but many of the trees that we collected need forming , branches need to be grown, buds developed and at last we can see the tree in the wood. Just look at some of my books and you will see what I mean. Branches on great trunks may be long whippy things and I need to inarch and graft, bend and shape the branch into an acceptable (to me as the artist) shape of a tree in nature. Not a highly sculpted shape that bears little resemblance to what I am used to IN MY AREA. And that is the key. I create trees that I am comfortable with. Trees that I see around me.

When I teach in other countries I create trees that I see in that area. . I try to make the image into a tree. I use every technique available to me to get to that point but I always try to end up with a tree that I can see outside in the mountains, valets and even the fields. I should stipulate that what I mean is that I try to make trees that are nice trees in nature. Yes, I realise that many trees in nature are a mess but I am not talking about those. You have seen many trees that are lovely-again look at the trees in my books which I photograph in Nature and you will see and hopefully, agree with me.

That was what Kitamura was trying to do. He wanted to make small trees not ornamental shrubs with spectacular trunks and little else to say ’I am a tree’  (By Craig Coussins)

(c) Will Hiltz Nara Publishers
(c) Will Hiltz Nara Publishers

In Hawaii they call it “mana.” In Japan it is known as “ki.” This is the life force contained within man, animals and the plant world. It is the reason why the power of touch is healing. Those who possess such a touch along with an artistic bent and an innate respect for the natural world have the ability to create great beauty.

Dan Robinson is such a person. His gentle hands sculpt, nurture, caress and coax tiny and sometimes wizened bonsai trees into delicate works of art. His life force connects with the trees and they respond.  Now, with his new book “Gnarly Branches, Ancient Trees” Dan is sharing his creations, and a good portion of his life, with the world. Follow the pages as the “Tree Guy” reminisces about his early days when his life force was new, but untrained. Discover the artist behind the art, the philosophies of a man arguably more in tune with trees than with fellow humans. Follow him as he searches for new trees in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest and brings them back to be part of his seven acre Elanden Gardens.

Dan views each of his bonsai trees as an independent spirit. He respects the mana of the tree and understands that by caring for and respecting that tree, it will return the favor by putting it best “trunk” forward. Proper bonsai form is sometimes trumped by a tree’s penchant to grow a certain way, creating something more beautiful than the artist might imagine. Sometimes the tree knows best.

Within the pages of “Gnarly Branches, Ancient Trees” are stunning photographs of bonsai trees that have been nurtured to perfection. Some are older than the artist, but in a tree’s world, that is still young. At times it might be hard to tell whether Dan or the trees take center stage in the book. Since they have shared their life force to create such beauty, there really is no difference. This is not only a charmingly told tale about a man and his trees and the ancient art of bonsai, it is a love story. (Review by Monica Wachmann)

This above pre-release reviews were based on limited information received from the Publishers ‘Nara Press’. We have been invited to do a full review after the book is published in early October. We would like to thank Will Hiltz, The Author, Chief Photographer and Publisher of ‘Gnarley Branches, Ancient Trees’ for permission to use these images.

So as they say ‘Watch this space” for more book reviews.

Zen and three friends of winter

In Japan, rock gardens were created by Zen Buddhist priests to offer a place for quiet reflection near Japanese temples. Several features are essential to these gardens; a typical garden will contain a water element, boulders, a gravel sand area reminiscent of the seashore, and plantings – often a combination of bamboo, plums and pine, called the “three friends of winter.”

Pine (shou) showing brilliant green in the bleakest of winter. Pine have been as a symbol of long life in China since ancient times.

Pine (shou) showing brilliant green in the bleakest of winter. Pine have been as a symbol of long life in China since ancient times.

Bamboo (chiku) another plant that stays mostly green throughout the winter. The stalk of the bamboo is hollow, that symbolizes tolerance and open-mindedness.

Plum (bai) show a beautiful elegance during the bleakness of a hostile winter. The character of the plum tree serves as a metaphor for inner beauty and humble display under these extreme conditions.

If you don’t have space for a full-sized Japanese garden, you can create one in miniature: bonsai ponds can be made to fit a very small space. A water garden following Zen design principles is a simple do-it-yourself project, as any watertight containers can be made into bonsai ponds. Start with one container large enough to house all the elements of your project and a smaller container for the pond. You will also need a small aquarium pump to aerate the water. Ready-grown “three friends of winter” bonsai and the supplies and instructions to maintain them are available online. You can buy rocks, sand, and gravel at your local aquarium or home improvement store.

Arrange your garden according to the following Zen aesthetic principles: kanso, or simplicity; fukinsei, or asymmetry; shibui, or minimalism; shizen, natural materials; yugen, surprise or revelation; datsuzoku, or a sense of wonder; and seijaku, or tranquility. Fill your small container with water and place it on one side of the garden container; this will be your pond. To prevent the water from stagnating, conceal the aquarium pump in the garden to aerate the water – you can even arrange the pump outlet to create a waterfall over your rocks, if you like. To satisfy the principle of shizen, make sure any artificial elements are well hidden, for example you can use natural stone and gravel both to hide the edges of the water container and to create a shoreline around the water’s edge. Opposite the pond, arrange the “three friends of winter” bonsai with the larger rocks, surrounded by more gravel and sand: this balance between the pond and plantings will create asymmetry, or fukinsei. Make sure to place a few rocks in such a way that they may be hidden or may hide other elements that to offer surprises, or yugen.

No matter the size, a Japanese Zen garden will offer a peaceful haven from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Your own Japanese garden

This is an architecture design map or outline garden plan of Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion) in Kyoto. It is called choukanzuhou, "a bird's-eye view" or fukanzuhou, "view from abovHow to go about when you are caught by the beauty of a Japanese garden and you have decided that this is what you want?

Japanese gardens are a living work of art in which the plants and trees are ever changing with the seasons. As they grow and mature they are constantly sculpted to maintain and enhance the overall experience. Hence a Japanese garden is never the same and never really finished. While the underlying structure is determined by the architecture, that is the framework of enduring elements, such as buildings, veranda’s and terraces, paths, tsukiyama (artificial hills) and stone compositions, over time it is only as good as the careful maintenance that it receives by those skilled in the art of training and pruning.

If a major reason for having a Japanese garden is the quick and easy construction or the little maintenance that it needs then you have been fooled and probably read the wrong advice, perhaps on one of the many poor quality websites. It is beyond imagination to see how much discussable information is written on the Web on the subject of Japanese gardens and gardening. And that is perhaps the best prove that constructing your own Japanese garden is not as straightforward as some authors want you to believe. There are dozens of brilliant and good books on the subject. There are also plenty of poor books on the subject. I have however never seen a book that comes even distantly close and is as bad as some publications on the Web. There are also a few quality sites but you need a candle-light to find them.

Often the terms Japanese garden and Zen garden are used as synonyms and interchangeable. Well they are not. The designs of medieval gardens in Japan was ultimately derived from Chinese landscape art. The influence of Zen-Buddhism on garden design was (probably) first described as such in 1935 by Kuck (Kuck, Loraine (1968, 1984) in ‘The World of the Japanese Garden – From Chinese Origins to Modern Landscape Art’ (John Weatherhill, Inc. of New York and Tokyo. ISBN 0-8348-0029-2.) in the early 20th century and disputed by Kuitert (Kuitert, Wybe (1988). ‘Scenes and Taste in the History of Japanese Garden Art’ ( J.C.Gieben, Publisher, Amsterdam. ISBN 0-5063-021-9) by the end of that century. It took until the nineteen fifties that the concepts of a garden as an expression of Zen was first described in the Japanese language by Shinichi Hisamatsu in ‘seven characteristics’. And for sure these latter are very useful for us Westerners to better understand and realize a Japanese garden of any type. Mind you this is not to say that Japanese gardens are not influenced by Buddhism or Zen-Buddhism but that nowadays we see just too much esoteric explanations and interpretations brought into the Japanese garden mainly by Westerners.

The subject is a complex one and perhaps that is the reason for over-simplification by many writers. Building a Japanese, and actually any, garden does not start with selecting “Japanese” plants and trowing them on a plot together with a pile of ‘Oriental (looking) ornaments’ either made out of stone or plastic. This sounds a bit disrespectful. But then, is it not also disrespectful to call such a composition a Japanese or Zen garden ? If you like oriental ornaments and flowering sub-tropical plants you can design and build a very nice garden based on that theme. Just then do not call it a Japanese garden or confuse that with what you have. Instead call it an Oriental garden. Nothing wrong with that and no confusion caused.

The point is that although a garden can be Japanese, there is no definition of such a thing as the Japanese garden, because there are a number of very different Japanese garden types and styles. The term ‘Japanese garden’ is a common classification that applies to all Japanese garden types, regardless of style, located in Japan originally. The character of a garden is determined by its type and style. In addition many, of not most gardens in Japan, combine multiple types and styles. This is done by compartmentalization of a garden. Looking at a Zen-Buddhist temple-complex this is mostly composed of different garden types. It is important to observe that these different types are often combined but not mixed or amalgamated. Each garden compartment as such is kept pure and in accordance with its utilization and hence garden-type.

For you, assuming that we talk about a home-garden, it all starts with the question what is it that I like about it and what is a Japanese garden anyway ? If you want it to be a Japanese garden, and perhaps more specifically a Zen garden or Tea garden than stick to this concept. If you want a pond in your garden, with or without Koi-carp than you need yet a different type or combination.

Take as a model the creations left to us by the famous men of old and, considering the suggestions of the owner of the house (where the garden is to be made), one must create, exercising one’s own aesthetic senses.

From Sakuteiki, a Japanese garden book with rules and notes on garden making that dates back to the late seventeenth century. Its oldest title is Senzai Hishõ, “Secret Extracts on Gardens”, and was written nearly 1000 years ago. The oldest treatise known that addresses gardening as an aesthetic art.

To answer the former questions you should follow the above centuries old advice.
Look at and study genuine Japanese gardens. Although there are some great Japanese gardens outside Japan these are relatively scarce and one should be reluctant and selective to use these as a point of reference, at least initially. For this purpose it is best to first stick with gardens located in Japan. Until ten years back one had to either travel to Japan or get a few good books. Nowadays there is an abundance of good photo’s available on the Web and many authentic gardens located in Japan even have their own Website some of them even offer you a virtual interactive tour.

Then decide what you like most, be it a garden type, ornaments or objects and elements and scenes from different gardens, and what you would like to have as your own Japanese garden. This will become the source of inspiration to design your own garden, not to copy it. Then the next step has everything to do with feasibility. Many questions should be asked and answered to satisfaction. Obviously this has to do everything with the available budget or at least what you are willing to spend on your garden, now or perhaps in stages. Perhaps the next factor is location and surroundings. What garden architecture does best fit and take advantage of the surrounding while satisfying your needs ? And do not forget the practical side of your garden, the different purposes for which you want to use it. And so on. Your own Japanese garden should start as lines and text on paper, no more but definitely no less. Planning it over one weekend ? You must be joking.

Description of image above:

This is an architecture design map or outline garden plan of Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion) in Kyoto. It is called choukanzuhou, “a bird’s-eye view” or fukanzuhou, “view from above”.

Piet Patings, Tsubo-en Zen-garden,

International Festival of Bonsai

A must see event if you are near Burgundy on the 9′ or 10′ of October is the ‘International Festival of Bonsai’. This is the first time that this event is taking place and one of the key attractions is the private collection of Bonsai artist ‘Danny Use’. Other Bonsai artists attending will be, Olivier Barreau, Angel Mota, Jean-François Busquet, Frédéric Chenal, Thierry Font, François Gau, François Jeker, Salvatore Liporace, John Pitt, Gilles Rigal, Alfredo Salaccione and the Japanese Bonsai master Yuji Akanuma.
9th & 10th October 2010
Saulieu (21) parc des expositions
Public Opening hours:
Saturday 9th October 10 am – 7 pm
Sunday 10th October 10 am – 6 pm Price:
Visitors tickets :
Two-day ticket :. €12
Pre-purchased two-day ticket available until September 17th : € 8
Sunday ticket : € 8
Kids under 12 are free.
Via A6 direction south: exit at Avallon/Saulieu by RN
Via A6 direction north: exit at Saulieu
Parc des Expositions, Rue Jean Bertin, 21210 SAULIEU
GPS: Latitude: 47.2796192 – Longitude: 4.2293574

bonsai-festivalA must see event if you are near Burgundy on the 9′ or 10′ of October is the ‘International Festival of Bonsai’. This is the first time that this event is taking place and one of the key attractions is the private collection of Bonsai artist ‘Danny Use’. Other Bonsai artists attending will be, Olivier Barreau, Angel Mota, Jean-François Busquet, Frédéric Chenal, Thierry Font, François Gau, François Jeker, Salvatore Liporace, John Pitt, Gilles Rigal, Alfredo Salaccione and the Japanese Bonsai master Yuji Akanuma.


9th & 10th October 2010


Saulieu (21) parc des expositions

Public Opening hours:

Saturday 9th October 10 am – 7 pm

Sunday 10th October 10 am – 6 pm

Visitors tickets :

Two-day ticket :. €12

Pre-purchased two-day ticket available until September 17th : € 8

Sunday ticket : € 8

Kids under 12 are free.

To Buy Tickets


Via A6 direction south: exit at Avallon/Saulieu by RN

Via A6 direction north: exit at Saulieu

Parc des Expositions, Rue Jean Bertin, 21210 SAULIEU

GPS: Latitude: 47.2796192 – Longitude: 4.2293574

Bonsai Beautiful Journey

Have you ever wondered what went into creating that piece of living art known as a bonsai? How the precise cutting and trimming and tying kept a tiny tree, just that, tiny?

Craig Coussins has travelled to many countries teaching the art of bonsai. In between these journeys he has managed to find time to write a series of practical books, among them “Bonsai for Beginners”, “Bonsai Master Class”, “Bonsai School and the “Practical Guide to Growing Bonsai: A Guide to the Art of Shaping, Growing and Caring for Miniature Trees and Shrubs”.

Bonsai for Beginners
Bonsai for Beginners

Combining photos and text, Mr. Coussins covers such topics as proper watering, soil requirements, how to repot bonsai trees and how to prune both the branches and the in some cases delicate root structure.

In “Bonsai for Beginners” there is also a step by step section, including photos, on how to turn a cascade style bonsai, where the branches and leaves grow down and below the lip of the pot, into an upright tree by carefully turning the tree upside down. This is more for advanced growers, but it is something to work up to. Other parts of the book focus on the more elementary steps of bonsai. This particular book has over 450 photos throughout its pages, covering a variety of plant species. Some are inspirational photographs of finished bonsais; others are to lead you in your step by step journey through the process.
“Bonsai School” is equally endowed with hundreds of photos along with instructions and a calendar to help you keep track of what needs done when on your bonsai. Various bonsai tree artists from around the world are included in the book, each sharing techniques and pointers of the craft.

Whether you choose “Bonsai for Beginners” or “Bonsai School”, or any of Craig Coussins’ other books, you will gain an in-depth knowledge of the elegantly fascinating art of bonsai gardening. Through his photos and his novel like, easy flowing text, you just might find that trying to turn a tiny tree into a living, breathing, sculptured work of art is something you just can’t wait to try. Go for it, and bring a little bit of cultivated Mother Nature into your world.

Growing Palms

sagopalmbonsaiEverybody recognises palm trees, they are the universal symbol for the tropics but many are hardy enough for our temperate climate gardens. Until recently New Zealand gardeners have had only a very limited range of palms to choose from. In the last five years the range has grown enormously as nurseries have been encouraged by gardeners eager to experiment.
Nevertheless, palms are, on the whole, slightly tender plants. Those that will tolerate regular frosts of -6°C. or more are few in number. If your minimum temperature does not drop below -2°C or if you are in a frost free area the range of suitable plants increases considerably.

There are two main styles of palms; the fan and the feather. The names refer to the layout of the fronds. Fan palms have the leaflets of the frond arranged just like a hand operated fan. The most widely grown fan palm is Trachycarpus fortunei, the Chinese Fan Palm. Feather palms have the leaflets of their fronds arranged along a rigid midrib like a bird’s feather. The most commonly grown feather palm is Phoenix canariensis, the Canary Island Date Palm.
Palms are extremely important plants to the world’s economy. The true date palm or commerce, Phoenix dactylifera, is rarely seen in New Zealand but is the most common commercially grown palm. The coconut, Cocos nucifera, is not far behind. Possibly more significant than fruit crops is the use of palms for shelter. Virtually every tropical third world village relies on palms as a roofing material.

Although palms are associated with sun and sand most species appreciate light shade when young. Shelter from wind is important if the fronds are to look their best but as the plants eventually become quite large they will eventually have to tolerate exposure to sun and wind.
When siting a palm remember to take into account the spread of the crown. This is not so significant with a mature plant as the crown is usually well above most obstructions. The problem is adolescent plants, which tend to have much the same spread as adults without the height. They take up a considerable area until the trunk begins to develop.

Soil conditions
Palms generally do best in a rich, moist well-drained soil. They have fairly strong roots that anchor them firmly. The roots of many palms can withstand a considerable amount of abuse, which enables the trees to be safely transplanted at almost any size.

Climate adaptability
Many palms are frost tender but there are quite a few that tolerate reasonably tough frosts. The best known are Phoenix canariensis and Trachycarpus fortunei but you should also consider Jubaea chilensis, Chamaerops humilis, Butia capitata, Washingtonia robusta and Brahea armata.
Palms often grow well in coastal conditions but benefit from occasional wash downs to remove any salt spray deposits.

Container growing
Palms often make superb container plants, both indoors and outdoors. Many are undemanding and tolerant of neglect. In cold areas it’s often best to keep young palms in containers until well established. That way they can be moved under cover for winter. Once they have a spread of over 1.5 m or so they should be hardy enough to plant out but if it’s not inconvenient it’s better to wait as long as possible.

Palms are nearly always propagated by seed. They usually have only one growing point so vegetative propagation is not practical. Occasionally suckers form at the base of established plants and may be carefully removed for growing on but this is not a reliable method of propagation.
Palm seed varies greatly in its ease of germination. The most common problem is very hard seed coats. No amount of scarification or soaking will soften the toughest of them. Sometimes acid treatment is resorted to but patience is the usual method. Some, such as Butia capitata, may take upwards of a year in the soil before germination but eventually with the right combination of moisture, temperature and time they sprout.

Pests and diseases
Palms are not prone to any unusual pests or diseases. Frost damage is far more likely to the biggest problem.

Palm selection
Do not expect to find all of the species at your local garden centre; many of these palms are only available as seed. Unless otherwise stated all of these palms have panicles of small yellow flowers.

The King Palm (Archontophoenix alexandrae) is a prominent feature in many tropical and sub-tropical areas but it is too tender for all but the very far north. Archontophoenix cunninghamiana is a better bet but it still requires a near frost free climate with warm summers. It is a feather palm with long arching frond. It can reach 20 m high but rarely exceeds 7 m in New Zealand gardens. The flowers are followed by masses of small red berry-like fruit. Archontophoenix cunninghamiana may be grown indoors but it needs high light and humidity levels. The seeds germinate easily.

Arecastrum-see Syagrus
Two species of this genera are suitable for growing outdoors in mild areas. Both are feather palms with broad leaves that have silvery undersides. Arenga pinnata requires near frost free conditions but Arenga engleri from Taiwan will tolerate infrequent light frosts. Both species have interesting flowering habits and fruit. Arenga pinnata is monocarpic; it dies after flowering although it takes at least ten years to reach maturity. Arenga engleri survives to flower again but the leaf stem beside the flower stalk dies. Both species have fruit with extremely caustic pulp. Both species are unlikely to exceed 3.5 m high under New Zealand conditions but Arenga pinnata may reach 18 m high in its native South East Asian region. Arenga pinnata seed germinates quickly and easily but Arenga engleri is erratic and may take several months to sprout. Not usually grown indoors.

Blue Palm-see Brahea
These fan palms are becoming more common in New Zealand gardens. Both of the common species Mexican Blue Palm (Brahea armata) and Guadeloupe Palm (Brahea edulis), are reasonably hardy and adaptable plants. B. armata has beautiful, finely divided glaucous fronds. It is the hardier of the two and will withstand -8°C once established. It has a stocky trunk for many years but may eventually reach 12 m high. Brahea edulis is tender when young but withstands -6°C once the trunk is over 10-15 cm diameter. It grows slowly to about 15 m high. Both species are tolerant of drought and low humidity. Brahea armata has 12 mm diameter brown fruit, while Brahea edulis has edible 18 mm diameter blackish fruit. Grow in full sun. The germination of Brahea armata seed is very erratic and may take up to year. Brahea edulis is less tricky but still not very reliable. High light requirements make Brahea unsuitable for indoor cultivation.

The Yatay, Pindo Palm or Jelly Palm (Butia capitata) from Brazil is a hardy feather palm with long drooping olive to bluish green fronds. It will withstand -10°C once established and deserves to be more extensively grown. It grows to about 7 m high. The flowers are followed by yellow to red 25 mm diameter pulpy fruit. Grow in full sun. Seed germination is highly variable, it is unlikely to take less than two months and may be a year or more. High light requirements mean this palm is not very suitable for growing indoors. California palm-see Washingtonia

Canary Island date palm-see Phoenix

The Fishtail Palm (Caryota mitis) is often grown as a house plant and is unlikely to grow well outdoors except in the very far north. Caryota urens has slightly lower heat requirements but will not tolerate any frost. It has very dark green, slightly arching fronds. All Caryota palms have intricately cut bipinnate feather fronds. Most species grow to large sizes (over 18 m high) in the tropics but are unlikely to exceed 8 m high under New Zealand conditions. They have fruit with caustic pulp that should not be handled with bare hands. The seed germinates easily. Caryota palms grow well indoors but prefer warmth and high humidity.

The Mediterranean Fan Palm (Chamaerops humilis) is a bushy fan palm that is usually multi-trunked and will not exceed 6 m high. The trunks take many years to form and are seldom seen in gardens. Most plants grow to about 1.5 m high x 5 m wide. The fronds are tipped with sharp spines. It is a very hardy palm that tolerates -15°C. Tolerant of low humidity and drought. Grow in full sun. The seed germinate well and takes about six weeks to sprout. High light requirements and sharp spines make it unsuitable for indoor use.

Chilean wine palm-see Jubaea
Chinese fan palm-see Trachycarpus
The Coconut Palm (Cocos nucifera) is one the most important commercial crops. It is essentially a tropical palm but will grow outdoors in frost free areas of the far north. It is a large feather palm that often develops a leaning trunk. It may grow to 30 m high in the tropics but rarely exceeds 8 m in gardens. The fruit seldom will not develop to its normal size in our climate but becomes large enough to be a conversation piece. Coconuts germinate well but take at least three months to sprout. They need consistent warmth and the whole nut must be planted, do not strip away the husk. May be grown indoors but resents cold draughts.

Date palm-see Phoenix
Although primarily a tropical plant the Assai Palm (Euterpe edulis) will grow outdoors in frost free areas with warm summers. It is a feather palm with arching fronds and graceful drooping leaflets. The trunk is improbably slim fro the size of the foliage head and may grow to 25 m high although it is unlikely to exceed 10 m high under New Zealand conditions. The fruit is black and about 12 mm diameter. The seeds germinate easily. May be grown indoors when young.

Fishtail palm-see Caryota
Very popular indoors but capable of growing outdoors in frost free areas, these palms were formerly classified as Kentia and are still widely known by that name. Two species, Howea belmoreana and Howea forsterana, are grown. Both are natives of Lord Howe Island. They are feather palms with deep green gracefully arching fronds and narrow trunks. Howea belmoreana grows to about 7 m high and Howea forsterana about 15 m high but both are unlikely to reach these sizes in New Zealand gardens. They have brown olive sized fruit that takes two years to ripen. Only very fresh seed will germinate and even then it is erratic. Both species need shade when young, which is why they perform well indoors.

The Chilean Wine Palm (Jubaea chilensis) is a hardy (-8°C) feather palm that should be more widely grown. It has deep green arching fronds and a very distinctive trunk. The trunk becomes greatly enlarged, rather like a baobab tree, so that when mature it may be up 2 m diameter. Within the trunk is a large reserve of sap, which may be tapped and fermented into an alcoholic drink, hence the name Wine Palm. This palm can grow to 20 m high or more but it takes many years to get above 10 m high. The 40 mm diameter fruit is yellow and the seed it contains germinates easily but takes about four months to sprout. May be grown indoors but has high light requirements.

Kentia-see Howea
Lady palm-see Rhapis
These fan palms are native to South East Asia and Australia. Two species, Livistona australis and Livistona chinensis, are suitable for growing outdoors in mild areas. They are very similar to one another. Both have deep green spiny fronds with leaflets that droop and fray at the tips. They have quite solidly built trunks that grow to about 12-15 m high. Under New Zealand conditions it takes many years for them to reach 10 m high. Both species are hardy to about -5°C when well-established. Livistona australis has 18 mm diameter reddish fruit and Livistona chinensis has 25 mm diameter green fruit. The seed of both species germinates easily and quickly. May be grown as house plants but they have high light requirements.

Nikau-see Rhopalostylis
Palmetto-see Sabal
The Canary Island Date Palm is by far the most common feather palm grown in New Zealand gardens. It has deep green arching fronds and a trunk studded with bases of old fronds. When young, the trunk tends to be quite bulbous but as it gains height it becomes more tree-like. A mature tree may be up to 18 m high and have a very solid trunk. The fruit is about 40 mm diameter and yellowish orange. Phoenix dactylifera is the true ‘Date Palm’ of commerce that is such a well-known symbol of North Africa and the Middle East. It has shorter fronds in a less dense head than Phoenix canariensis. It is much taller when mature, up to 25 m high. Both Phoenix canariensis and Phoenix dactylifera will withstand -8°C when established but should not be exposed to hard frosts until the have a short trunk. Phoenix dactylifera needs hot summers to grow well and is unlikely to produce edible dates in a cool summer climate.
A third species, the Pygmy Date Palm (Phoenix roebelinii) is considerably less hardy but it can be grown outdoors in frost free areas. It is frequently used as a container plant as it only grows to about 3 m high. There are several other species that would be suitable for growing in New Zealand gardens but they are rarely seen . Among those most likely to do well are Phoenix loureiri, Phoenix rupicola and Phoenix sylvestris. All Phoenix palm seeds germinates quickly and easily. All species make excellent house plants when young.

Queen palm-see Syagrus.
The Needle Palm (Rhapidophyllum hystrix) is native to the south eastern United States. It is a hardy fan palm that remains low growing and bushy. The olive green fronds have sharp spines on the petioles and the tips of the leaflets are also sharp. It grows into a multi-trunked clump about 1.5 m high x 4 m wide. Makes a vicious, nearly impenetrable hedge. It is hardy to about -12°C but requires constant warm summer temperatures to grow well. Has 18 mm long green oval fruit, the seeds from which germinate erratically. Grow in full sun. Its spines make it unsuitable as a house plant.

The Lady palms are multi-trunked fan palms that are hardy to about -3°C when established but require warm summers to grow well. Two very similar species are grown, Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa) and Slender Lady Palm (Rhapis humilis). They have small fronds on fibre covered bamboo-like canes. They form dense bushy clumps to about 4 m high with foliage to ground level. Rhapis excelsa has 12 mm diameter green fruit and grows quickly and easily from seed. Rhapis humilis does not produce seed and may not be a true species. It is grown from basal suckers. Both species are excellent house plants that tolerate low light levels and neglect.

This genus is most commonly represented in gardens by our only native palm, the Nikau (Rhopalostylis sapida), but also includes Rhopalostylis baueri, which is a similar species from Norfolk Island. Sometimes known as Shaving Brush palms because of the prominent bulge beneath the foliage head both species are elegant feather palms that grow to about 8 m high under garden conditions although Rhopalostylis baueri can reach 15 m high or more in the wild. Both species tolerate only light frosts. Rhopalostylis sapida grows well in cool climates provided they are nearly frost free but Rhopalostylis baueri needs steady summer warmth. Both species have 18 mm diameter red fruit. Seed germinates reliably but may take over three months to sprout. Seedlings are slow growing and need shade. Good house plants when young.

The Palmetto palms are native to the southeastern United States and Mexico. They are fan palms and often have large fronds. Two species are readily available. Sabal minor and Sabal palmetto. They are among the smaller species: Sabal minor is a bushy, often multi-trunked and grows to about 3.5 m high while Sabal palmetto is more tree-like but rarely exceeds 7 m high. S. minor has glaucous fronds. Both species are hardy to about -6°C once established and both have 12 mm diameter black fruit. The seed germinates quickly and easily. There are several other species worthy of trying but they are seldom available. Of these Sabal domingensis is the most distinctive as it can grow to 25 m high. Sabal mexicana and Sabal uresana are also tree sized. S. uresana has silver grey fronds and is very drought tolerant. These palms have high light requirements and are unlikely to be good house plants except for conservatories.

The Saw Palmetto (Seranoa repens) is bushy fan palm native to Florida. It grows into a clump about 2.5 m high x 4 m wide, often multi-trunked. The fronds are silvery grey to glaucous with sharp tipped leaflets. Hardy to about -4°C. Grow in full sun. The fruit is oval, about 18 mm long and black. The seed germinates well but may take a few months to sprout. Can also be grown from suckers. High light requirements would probably limit this species as a house plant.

The Queen Palm (Syagrus romanzoffiana [syn. Arecastrum romanzoffiana]), is frequently seen as a street tree in tropical and sub-tropical cities. This Brazilian native has very long finely divided arching plumose fronds that move in the slightest breeze. It has a slender trunk that can reach 18 m high but is unlikely to exceed 10 m under New Zealand conditions. Hardy to -5°C when mature but needs protection from frosts until about 1.5 m high with a good crown. Also needs warm summers to grow well. Has yellow fruit about 25 mm in diameter and 18 mm long seeds that germinate quickly and easily. It makes a good house plant when young but needs bright light and humidity.

The Chinese Fan Palm (Trachycarpus fortunei) is probably the hardiest of the tree-like palms. It will tolerate -12°C from a young age. The fronds are deep green and quite luxuriant on young plants grown in the shade but they rapidly deteriorate in full sun and strong wind. The trunk is covered in fibre and the bases of old fronds and may be up to 12 m high. The small 12 mm diameter grape-like fruit is bluish with a grey bloom. The seed germinates quickly and easily. As this palm prefers shade when young it makes a good house plant when young. There are other species worth growing, such as the very dwarf Trachycarpus nanus, but they are seldom available.

These palms are synonymous with Southern California. They are fan palms with very straight trunks. Two species are grown, one Californian (Washingtonia filifera) and the other Mexican (Washingtonia robusta). Washingtonia filifera can grow to 20 m high and is quite stocky. Washingtonia robusta, which is sometimes called Sky Duster, has a very narrow trunk and may reach 30 m high or more. Under New Zealand conditions they are slow growing and unlikely to reach such impressive dimensions. The fronds have long petioles for fan palms. Both species will survive -6°C once established but need summer heat to grow well. Both have 18 mm diameter fruit that is reddish green when ripe. Both species appreciate light shade when young. The seed germinates quickly and easily. May be grown as house plants until too large to remain inside.