Pied Beauty

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)

Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise him.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Don't Believe Everything You Read

This kind of thing really aggravates me.  A local discount tree nursery has a new ad proclaiming that "it's never too hot to plant Big Tex Trees!"  They claim that their trees and palms are heat acclimated and guaranteed to grow.  Moreover, they claim that since their queen palms (Syagrus romanzoffiana) are grown in Ventura County, California instead of Florida, they will perform better in the Houston area.  They have even gone so far as to name their queen palms after the little town in California where, presumably, they are grown.  As if there's a difference between Piru queen palms and any other queen palm.

Well, you know what?  It is too hot to plant trees.  And anyone who's ever tried to water a newly planted tree in the middle of July knows it.  Let's just say you talk yourself into a large live oak, maybe 4-inch caliper.  This tree will need 20 to 30 gallons of water per week, from you or from the rain.  Imagine filling a 5-gallon bucket almost every single day and slowly letting it pour around the root ball.  Your sprinkler system isn't going to cut it.  It will have to be watered by hand.  And that's if we don't get a long spell of hot, dry, windy weather.  A strong southwest wind can strip the moisture from the leaves of a young tree faster than the roots can carry it up, no matter how much you water.  Far better to wait until October to plant trees.

It doesn't matter where those palm trees are grown, either.  They are containerized:  the root system is no bigger than the container it comes in.  What's important about where they were grown?  They were watered every single day there.  And you're going to have to water them every single day here, too.  And if we get another winter like we did last year, newly planted queen palms are in serious jeopardy.  Even if they were grown in Ventura County.

Queen palms are not reliably hardy here, although older, established ones may survive a hard freeze.  For a list of cold-hardy palms suitable for the Fort Bend County area, click here.


  1. We don't plant anything in the summer months. The last thing we put in nearly three weeks ago is having a hard time. I may have cut it too close to the hot season.

  2. We aim to plant in March April May to benefit from the winter rain. Ahem, it is July but we still have a few trees to go in. Soonest.

  3. Greg Grant, considered a palm expert, gave a talk at Garden Expo for TNLA this March. Employees from Big-Tex heard him make this statement. "Queen Palms grown in California are naturally going to be more cold hardy than Florida grown Queen Palms". Of course he meant that they were initially more acclimated to cooler weather. They are genetically identical but 9 months later when winter arrives that slight advantage is gone forever.

  4. Diana at Elephant's Eye -- we do the same thing here. We plant in October-February to allow trees to get a good root system established before it's so hot in the summer.
    Thanks, Victor, for providing some evidence for Big-Tex's claims. I'd be surprised if there's a palm tree anywhere that's hardened off to cold right now!
    Turling -- I have every faith in you re: your onions!

  5. amen. there is no such thing as a piru palm. the palms that come from north florida are as close to our needs in houston for acclimating purposes. i have been a palm specialists here for over fifteen years and have not lost a single queen palm from freeze. tips....regular fertilizing, trim off dead and spray with a fungicide and potassium in spring. i have over tens of thousands of different palm trees planted. heavier caliper trees help a little and there are also antitranspirant sprays that help for heat and cold. maybe i should call mine "houston queen palms"...million dollar idea

  6. THe Palms that they clame are Piru palms are still bought from florida and are just shifted in california. Piru is just the town that there growing office is located. Its all abot making money......

  7. Here difference between a "piru" palm and other queen palms