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The use of stand-alone and group plantings in the landscape

Common sight: Pygmy date palms are seen often in Bermuda gardens

Regardless of the size of one’s garden, the correct placement of a specific plant or group of plants can change the visual perspective thereby creating a bold statement.

Palms and associated types are in many cases ideal for such plantings as they are, in their own capacity, architectural in form and appearance. Palm species are relatively limited in Bermuda as seed cannot be imported.

Therefore, what you see is what you get and what you get ranges from pygmy date palm (Phoenix roebelenii) to royal palm, (Roystonea regia).

Nurseries will often grow the former in singles, doubles and trebles in a container. Doubles and trebles should be planted so the view from the vista point highlights the outline of the plant.

As they are relatively slow growing they are best viewed from close quarters and, for a really bold statement, can be planted in a group of five or seven in a stand-alone bed, underplanted with the taller lily (liriope) and mondo (ophiopogon) grasses or creeping rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis).

Cluster palms produce young growth from their base and also make interesting subjects being of a bulkier nature in habit.

Palms in this genre include bamboo palm (chamaedorea), European fan palm (chamaerops humilis), fishtail palm (Caryota mitis) and lady palm (Rhapis excelsa), which is a magnificent palm when grown well and literally forms a clump of young offshoots as it matures.

Most, if not all, of those previously mentioned will stand full sun, but wind can be a problem with softer-leaved and large-leaved palms.

A couple of palms for shady areas are parlour palm (Chamaedorea elegans) and reed palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii). Both are cluster palms, attaining a height of seven to eight feet and sensitive to wind and salt spray.

When considering single-trunk palms, height should be the governing factor as with faster-growing species the end result can be similar to a telephone pole, especially if viewed from close-up and outside the windows of a property.

Perhaps one of the most attractive single-trunked palms is Christmas palm (Veitchia merrillii), which has recurved foliage and red flowers near the end of the year.

On a building with large blank walls using taller palms can create an outline of the trunk and, more especially, the foliage thereby creating a reflective value to the planting.

Thurston’s Palm (Pritchardia thurstonii), Fiji fan palm (Pritchardia pacifica) as well as latan palm (Latania commersonii) with their large, fan-shaped foliage, add another dimension to an area.

Though not in the palm group, the cycads make a significant outline when viewed from afar, two that come to mind are sago (Cycas revolute) and queen sago (Cycas circinalis). Cardboard plant (Zamia furfuracea) and Florida arrowroot (Zamia floridana) have a similar growth habit to the cycads but a more defined foliage.

Cycads have proven to be fairly wind-resistant and, being of a monoecious/dioecious type, will have male and female flowers on different plants.

As sago attains a width of eight feet or so, having a bed with more than five plants might lessen the visual impact.

Planting distances will vary from species to species, the key point being the width and length of foliage — for example, Christmas palm does not have overly long leaves so placement of nine feet on centre should be adequate.

In a large area, a group of nine plants would make a bold statement.

In such cases, options of ground cover include plants, decking or gravel, which should be laid on a ground cover cloth to stop weed growth.

When planting close to a building ensure the final location allows the palm to grow without the foliage touching the wall; in areas of taller plantings either single up-lights or a wider beam wash light can also enhance the area.

Remember, palms are relatively slow growing, in order to make an immediate impact consider installing larger plants to make a statement.