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.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Foliage Friday: Rhapis Palms

I have to say, I don't really like palms.  To my eye, they look strange and naked in our lush, semi-tropical climate.  The proportion looks wrong to me, especially when planted singly.  And given that we do occasionally experience a hard freeze (remember last winter?), it's hard to believe there are so many planted in the Houston area..  That said, I do like palms that look more like shrubs.  We have some pretty palmettos that are native Texans and are quite cold-hardy. 

Closeup of Rhapis excelsa leaves
But my favorite palm is the Lady Palm, or Rhapis excelsa.  This relative of the Areca palm looks like bamboo, and is sometimes called Bamboo Palm.  I like the lush, tropical look of the foliage and the height: typically Lady Palm grows to a height of only 10-12 feet. 

Rhapis palm at Houston Zoo
Although this palm looks tropical, it's actually fairly cold hardy.  Older specimens survived our freezes last winter with no problems.  The picture above, taken in May of 2010, shows Lady Palms planted in the ground at the Houston Zoo.  You can hardly tell there was a freeze.

Rhapis palms -- lush and tropical
There are many different cultivated varieties on the market, and some are quite expensive.  They are said to be slow-growing when young, which may explain the high price.  But for a tropical look, or a rich, dense visual screen, they are perfect.  Plant in light shade or part sun for best results around here.  Full sun will cause yellowing and damage to foliage.

Another hardy palm that has a more delicate, finely textured look is Hardy Bamboo Palm, or Chamaeadorea microspadix.  It's got a very similar appearance, but the fronds are less fan-like.  I like that one too -- perhaps because it doesn't look like a palm!


  1. Do love the name of your blog, Elizabeth.
    And very interesting info on Lady Palms. I must admit, I've grown attached to the idea of palm trees since moving to California. But only when they truly work in the overall scheme of a site or a garden.
    (Alice ...aka Bay Area Tendrils)

  2. Hi Elizabeth,
    The palm is very nice and cold hardy to boot. It does look tropical. My palms all live inside. Bet they wish they could move down South.