Ewen's garden

A collection of columns, paintings and photographs about gardening on an offshore island in New Zealand.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

All in a name

Despite the equinoctial gales howling around us all weekend I did manage to get into the vegetable garden and plant my tomatoes and other spring vegetables. I am a wee bit later this season, but better later than never is my philosophy. Next task will be to get hold of some good mulch to help keep in the moisture as the dry winds whip across the island. I will water the plants while they are young, but am loathe to use too much water as summer draws on. The other benefit of a mulch is as it decays it adds much needed organic matter to the soil.
Now inside I have turned my attention to the correct name of a palm I have in my garden. I was sold it as Dypsis baronii, a clumping palm, that is to say it has multiple trunks much the same as the golden cane palm, Chrysalidocarpus lutescens. Both these palms originate in Madagascar but the latter requires a true tropical climate, where as D. baronii will tolerate the cooler climate we have here. The golden cane palm is much used in the tropics for landscaping, particularly planted as a hedge. I have D. baronii growing beneath an Illawara flame tree, Brachychiton acerifolius, where it is thriving with no attention from me. The arching fronds create a wonderful backdrop to the water feature in the foreground. At this stage my tree is only about 2.5 metres in five years, and as yet I am unsure as to how large it will eventually grow (one reference stated 6m). I am happy for it to push up into the limbs of the Brachychiton above it and as it also produces new stems from the base it should be no problem. I did have a problem with it though and this was its correct spelling. I had seen written in some publications as Neodypsis baronii, dilemma, which was the more recent nomenclature? With all my books across the study floor I was still at a loss, I always said you can never have too many reference books, apparently I still don’t have enough! So I turned to the internet, and typed in Neodypsis baronii, the first listing was from the US Department of Agriculture. Here I discovered Neodypsis was indeed the correct nomenclature, Dypsis, the synonym. Also the date the name was verified, 12 Nov. 1996, last updated,11 Feb. 2007! Excellent, now I know, not that it may mean much to others, but if I am looking for information about the cultivation of a plant, knowing the exact name is important. Unfortunately this site had no pictures of the palm, however another search of Dypsis took me to the site of the Palm and Cycad Societies of Australia, where there were a couple of pictures, verifying I was indeed looking at the correct palm. It would appear they were still using the synonym though. Confused, I hope not, my point is the internet can be a quick and perhaps tidier way to find information than pulling all your books off the shelves! Another good resource is the city library, the Island branch has many good books on gardening, design and reference books.

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