Palm tree

Gardening Podcast Palm Tree

Penny Haslam My Garden Podcast - Season 4

My Garden Podcast - A gardening podcast

Gardening Podcast Palm Tree - The palm tree is RIP

Season 4: Episode 1 

Gardening Podcast Palm Tree. Penny's palm tree has suffered from sub zero temperatures, she shins up it to find out if it's dead. 

Gardening Podcast Palm Tree - Transcript

So, we're back in the garden, and what a fantastic time of year it is: springtime. It's a little chilly here in the northwest of England in our garden with hunky husband. Go on, say hello. Hello, here he is, making an appearance. So yeah, hunky husband and I have ventured into the garden this afternoon. 

We could have gone for a swim, but no, we thought the sun's coming out and there's a massive list of jobs. One major concern over the last few months since a very cold snap in December, which lasted about 10 days. It snowed one Sunday, and the whole place was covered in a thin sprinkling of white, which looked lovely. 

Then the snow didn't melt, which is unusual in the UK. Normally, it just goes to slush after about 24 hours, and it's all a bit disappointing. This snow stuck around. It didn't snow again, but it stuck because we had minus five degrees during the daytime for about 10 days. It was highly unusual. So, the snow turned to ice, basically, and it was very pretty. 

The cold weather has damaged our palm tree

However, it had a horrible, damaging impact on the palm tree. It's been looking unwell, increasingly brown and sad, where it used to be perky. Now it's floppy. We Googled it, obviously, because that's what we do on this podcast, right? Listeners familiar with Series 1, 2, and 3 will know that Google is the favorite source of information for all our gardening needs. So we Googled it, and yeah, it looks like we basically have a dead palm tree. 

Has my palm tree died?

In a way, it's a good start to a series, isn't it? You know, a lot of TV shows, the first episode is either a wedding or a funeral or something like that. So, we'll start the first episode of the garden podcast with a fatality. But we need to confirm it, though. We need to check the heartbeat, that sort of stuff. It's not looking good, but I'm gonna climb up there and find out more now. 

It's sad because I've had it for five years and it's grown brilliantly. It was about 4 ft when I got it, and now it's 8 ft, which is huge, isn't it? And that's in imperial, not metric. So it's getting on for three meters tall, which is phenomenal. I liked it because it made me feel like I was on holiday, exotic and far-flung. But no, it's not going to continue doing that the way it's looking. 

Shimmy up the palm tree?

So I'm not going to shimmy up its trunk using my feet and one of those straps that the really able-bodied people in other countries use to climb palm trees. I'm actually going to use the precarious mechanism that my hunky husband has set up for me. 

He's suggesting a kind of seesaw plank that's resting on two walls. It's said. The palm tree, let me set the scene, is in the Mediterranean bed, which is a raised bed about thigh height, painted white. It's a square. The secret behind it is that it has been used and built to disguise the old tree trunk of a tree we cut down. 

It was a horrible, sticky, massive pine tree that dominated the garden and made it very, very dark. So we got rid of it. But frankly, the guy who did it was a bit lazy, and he had bitten off more than he could chew with the quote of £600 to chop it down. He was there for two or three days, getting covered in sap. And anyone who has ever chopped down any sort of established pine or fern knows that it's a messy job. 

The wood is like metal to cut through, so he just gave up when it got to chewing out the trunk and, you know, getting rid of that. He just looked defeated. 

I told him, "Mate, you can just go on. We'll leave it there and work around it." So what we did was we built this three-sided bed around it, a substantial size made of breeze blocks. We plastered it—I did my first bit of plastering a few years ago—and then we painted it white. 

We then decided that a palm tree would look super and more Mediterranean than anything else. Plus, it would add height to the garden. You know, when you have a longish and somewhat boring garden, you need to bring in some height. And we don't have many established trees. The first one we cut down, and the second one, well, it's been five years and it hasn't grown much. 

Anyway, we start the series with a potentially deadly incident. Let's go and check it out while I climb the seesaw. It's a good thing I've been doing yoga over the last few months. Here I go onto the hard plank. I don't feel too wobbly, which is good. 

I work for myself, so if I get injured, I'm absolutely in touble. Anyway, up we go. I think you might have to join me, hunky husband, with the microphone. What are you doing? Wearing your nice trainers out? Oh God, I've been quite naggy today, I won't lie. I feel happy in my head, and then I see something happening, like a mug of tea leaving a ring on the surface, and I'm like, "For goodness' sake, what are you doing, you stupid man?" I've just realised that I've been quite naggy. Anyway, back to the palm.

The Palm tree spears did look beautiful

Now, that's where I've been cutting and creating a beautiful pattern of all the spears. So it's like we have a trunk at the bottom, and then we're going to continue up for another meter with this cut-off style. It looks beautiful, what it did. And then you notice that we're into the dry spears. They're all brown now. Normally, you can't pull these off because they love being attached. That's why I had to cut all of them. I'll put a picture on Twitter so you can see, but you get the idea. You really have to cut through them. They're normally really, really attached, but not anymore. 

So, alright, okay. Oh gross, I'm not into it today. Do you know what I mean? It's too messy. I think I might be premenstrual, and I want everything really tidy. That's what's happening. I'm happy enough in my head, but if anyone bothers me, that's it, they're done for. And this is just going to create a load of mess. I don't know what it is. 

The leaves are just falling out

Anyway, the leaves are just piling up. I have my safety spectacles on. Oh yeah, looking good. Okay, so the leaves have come out, and at the top where they meet the trunk, it's absolutely damaged. It has mold on it, it's gone black. It's not soggy yet, which is one thing, but there's no growth, is there? No, no, no, that's done. According to Google, they say to go right to the top and get rid of all this dry stuff and see if there's any chance of growth. So that's what we're going to be looking for. We're going to do step one and remove as many of the leaves as possible. 

Will there be green shoots or recovery?

I'm going to struggle to reach any further, to be honest, unless I adopt that climbing up a palm tree with the instep, my insteps on the... I don't think I'll do that. Um, they say to get rid of all this dry stuff and then give it a bit of a fingers crossed situation. But maybe at the very top, there'll be some green shoots of recovery. But we're not going to be able to get out there to have a look anytime soon. I mean, with so many bits and things flying out of it, it's awful. Oh dear, you know what? I think the answer might just be to cut it down. 

The Palm tree has given up

Now that I've pulled some stuff out, it's, um, quite interesting. You're kind of inside the beast, really, underneath its big hair. The stalk just goes on for ages and ages. It's like Jack and the Beanstalk or the Magic Faraway Tree up there. It's an interesting world. So yeah, these spear palm leaves are laden all the way up there. But even the top ones that you think would be the strongest are easily pulled off. Yeah, it's not happy. It's given up, basically. Fair enough, I would have given up if I had been out in minus five during the day and night. It was not a nice time. 

So I think what we're going to do is give this another look and make a decision on what to do. Whether we hack it, chop it down, get the axe on it, and actually say goodbye to it. Or we continue with this incredibly messy job of pulling all the dead stuff off in the vain hope that it's going to return. But even the base of it is all black. 

Anyway, that's for another day. We'll make a decision on that. But amidst the joy of spring, there's some sad news. All the roses are coming out, everything's blooming. Even the fig tree has some cheeky little buds on it. Nice, and I'm loving it. I have a load of laundry on the line, drying in the freezing cool weather. I'll take it in and rehang it inside near the radiator. But such is life at this time of year. It's perfectly okay to feel like this. So right, I'm going to try not to be so snappy with the family when I get back in. Maybe I'll go for a long bath and have a big think.

How do you care for a palm tree in cooler climates?

Choosing the right palm tree

  • Select palm tree species that are more cold-hardy and can tolerate lower temperatures.
  • Suitable options for the British climate include Trachycarpus fortunei (Chusan palm or windmill palm) and Chamaerops humilis (European fan palm).

Planting location

  • Choose a sheltered location in your garden that provides some protection from strong winds and cold drafts.
  • South-facing areas are generally warmer and receive more sunlight, which can help the palm tree thrive.

Soil and drainage

  • Use well-draining soil that is fertile, loamy, and slightly acidic.
  • Improve heavy or poorly drained soil by adding organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure.


  • Regularly water the palm tree, ensuring the soil is consistently moist but not waterlogged.
  • Water more frequently during summer to prevent the soil from drying out completely.


  • Apply a layer of organic mulch around the base of the palm tree to retain soil moisture and regulate temperature.
  • Mulching also aids in weed control and provides additional nutrients as it breaks down.

Protection from frost

  • Protect palm trees from frost damage by wrapping the trunk with fleece or burlap and covering the foliage with horticultural fleece or straw during frosty periods.
  • Alternatively, grow palm trees in large containers and move them indoors or to a sheltered spot during winter.


  • Regularly inspect the palm tree for dead or damaged fronds and remove them using clean and sharp pruning tools.
  • Avoid cutting off healthy green fronds, as they contribute to the overall health and vitality of the tree.


  • Provide regular fertilization with a balanced palm fertilizer during the growing season, following the manufacturer's instructions.
  • This helps provide essential nutrients and promotes healthy growth.

How to take care of palm trees