Beach horticulture – Beach palms

Tom Balon of Vigoro Nursery gives his top tips for palms which work well in a beach garden.

Local thatch, silver and green palms (Cocothrinax proctorii and radiata)

These palms are especially durable, and can grow in any climate conditions Cayman has to offer. Thatch palms work well for lower foliage as the trees grow very slowly, or can work well for higher dimensions. The “heads” of the palms are much smaller than most, so can be used in many applications, or nearer buildings without offending the buildings themselves. They can also be clustered together for a more natural setting. Overall, a very diverse palm.

Chinese fan palms, Livistonia chinensis
(and Livistonia decipens)
Work well as a multi-trunk form, or singly also. These palms are very durable and will tolerate quite a lot of adverse conditions once established. If planted in multi-trunk form, Chinese fan palms can provide quite a lot of privacy at all levels, and also give protection to under plantings. With large palmate leaves, Chinese fan palms are very tropical in appearance.

Coconut palms (Cocos nucifera)
What’s not to love? Probably the most well known palm, coconut palms have one of the largest heads of any palm, provides ample shade and their interesting, curving trunks add drama to any space. Coconut palms can provide substance to almost any landscape and are extremely tolerant to any weather or water conditions.

Royal palms
(Roystonea regia/elata)
Work well when some real height is needed. Royal palms have a beautiful, stately appearance and are very tolerable to most conditions once established. With self-shedding fronds, Royal palms work well in a low maintenance garden.

Bizmark palms
(Bizmarckia nobilis)
Awesome in their size and colour, these palms really stand out when used correctly amidst a garden of green, varying heights and different palm leaves. Their silver colour and huge palmate leaves are really astounding when you get close to them. They do need space, above and below the ground, so correct placement is key. The palms’ very strong nature and rigid personality really add an element of strength in a garden.

Date palms (Phoenix canariensis, dactylifera, sylvestris or robellini):
All in the Phoenix family, these palms all have quite a different flavour, alone or collectively, in a garden. All fairly resilient (the robellini being the least), the first three are all more singly seen, with quite large heads, rigid and architectural. They have different coloration, so using different species can add those changing elements. The robellini being the ‘dwarf’ of them and seen as the shorter, soft, feathery multi-trunk species, adds a nice soft appearance at eye-level, and doesn’t get too tall.