Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Stopover at The Palm House

Every time we travel down for our holiday to Cornwall it’s almost a tradition for us to also visit our friends Lucien and Laura. They live in beautiful Exmouth in Devon which is about two thirds of the way to our final destination, so we take the opportunity to pause our journey, have a much needed break at their place, and more importantly catch up and have a good old natter with them (over plenty of delicious homemade cakes and hot tea of course).

The lovely George at the Palm House
After spending some time with them we resume our journey but we all leave together this time and pop ‘round to another traditional stop over us, The Palm House which is only about 20-30 minutes away from Lucien and Laura’s place and along the way to our journey too.

And one sunny afternoon last May on our way to Cornwall was no exception :-)

Gaz and Lucien, with George looking around the polytunnels
We always look forward to visiting the Palm House and catching up with George who mainly runs the nursery. George and his business partner grow palms from seed (mainly the very architectural Trachycarpus wagnerianus), raise them inside their polytunnels, and then sell them on to individuals or to trade.

The quality of the palms they sell are always top notch, I couldn’t praise them enough. The palms are field grown inside the polytunnels and once they reach certain sizes, they are dug up with a decent sized root ball, repotted, and left to re root again in the pot before they are sold on. They make sure that the palms are healthy, in great condition, and well rooted before they sell any of them. There are different sizes of palms available to suit most people’s needs and budget.

Laura checking out the palms

There’s also something special about buying palms that were grown and raised within the UK. A lot of palms sold here are imported from other European countries like the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, etc; and some more coming from as far away as Brazil and Korea. With the imported ones, it is not uncommon to buy specimens that are relatively freshly dug up and just about re rooting in their new pots (and the odd chance of inadvertently buying palms with no roots at all which did happen to us once!), and also some specimens being noticeably ‘force grown’ under glass with over long petioles. With the palms they sell, they are already acclimatised to British conditions, hence having more natural looking proportions to the leaves with the general size of the plant amongst other things. And since they only release well rooted palms, they are able to establish much quicker when planted out in the garden.

Field growing Trachycarpus wagnerianus

The field grown palms are dug up with a big rootball, potted, then re rooted before being sold
Potted and re rooted specimens ready for sale

Apart from T. wagnerianus, this is also my favourite place to buy palms such as Chamaedorea radicalis and microspadix, as well as a few other types of Trachycarpus which they also stock. If you spot any C. radicalis on some of the photos of our garden, chances are they originally came from here. Another thing I want to highlight is their success in propagating the bamboo Chusquea gigantea, a notoriously difficult to propagate bamboo and rarely available in smaller sized pots to purchase. They are however an exception and if you’re after one in a small pot then they are the place to source them.

Chamaedorea radicalis and other palms
A possible Trachycarpus takil, this specimen has been in the ground for ten years, slow growing and has very little trunk to it. A growth rate and trait unlike the usual T. fortunei

It may be a stopover but our visits are rarely short as George always happily shows us around and have long chats with him talking about the lovely exotics they have in the nursery. On our last visit we happily went away with three T. wagnerianus and a possible T. takil, taking them all the way to Cornwall with us. Now talk about bringing your own ‘houseplant’ with you on your holidays!

Definitely not our last visit, looking forward to popping ‘round again the very near future ;-)



  1. Beautiful plants and obviously very well cared for.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

  2. Wish I could pop on over for a visit!

  3. Heading to the palm house is now a tradition :D

  4. You guys know all the great plant haunts. Who knew there were so many tropical nurseries over there. Vancouver Island has virtually none. Looks like a fun day!

  5. They certainly are great looking specimens. I have even seen the Trachycarpus fortunei come through an Aberdeen Winter, I suspect it wouldn't survive our particular frost pocket.

  6. What a wonderful place you have discovered! I can't imagine all the time, care, and attention each plant has been given. A true treasure.

  7. Those palms really do look great. In the part of southern Germany where I used to live most people are just discovering Trachycarpus fortunei as a garden plant; I wonder how long it will take for Trachycarpus wagnerianus to become popular there. Unfortunately here in Michigan both are hardly suitable for outdoor culture, though the much more shrubby needle palm (Rhapidophyllum hystrix) seems to work.

  8. Very exotic in Cornwall! :) like the idea of homemade cake and hot tea!

  9. I have recently moved our Trachycarpus fortunei into a bigger pot. There is a sadness involved because we know it will need a new home before too long. It has almost outgrown a sensible living-in-a-pot size and this will be the last that's practical. Something slower growing but which looks just as good would be . . . good!


  10. Thanks Cher! Their palms are well taken cared of and always in top condition!

    Loree, you'd love it if it was near you and get the chance to visit :)

    Lucien, I'll take your word for it, looking forward to visiting again with you guys very soon....:)

    Nat, although I've bought palms online from there before it's actually the friends I mentioned in the blog that took us there and introduced. I do feel lucky with the amount of exotic nurseries here, a true reflection of the British love affair with gardening :)

  11. Alistair, it might be pushing the boundaries a bit with these palms in your location, certainly it was last winter. Hopefully that was a one off. Give it a try, especially T. fortunei :)

    Cheers Holley, I agree, a truly wonderful place for a palm lover especially!

    Esther, hang on to your Trachycarpus fortunei. It does tolerate pot culture very well and carry on growing and increase in trunk size, albeit slower. Just carry on giving it feed and lots of water in the summer, it can still give you lots of years of enjoyment :) A good alternative is the much slower growing palm Rhapidophyllum hystrix which is even more hardy. It costs a bit more to buy bigger ones because it is slow but can happily live in a pot for a long time.
    College Gardener, you might find T. wagnerianus starting to penetrate alot of exotic plant enthusiasts gardens already. Interesting and pleased tou mentioned Rhapidophyllum hystrix, probably the hardiest palm around. The only thing is it is very slow to size up.

    Mrs. Bok, Laura's homemade cakes are gorgeous!! :)



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