Prisoners of the snow


The Garden remains encased in snow but my windmill palm seeds finally arrived in the mail. I’ve been coveting Trachycarpus fortunei ‘Wagnerianus’ for a while. This was even my second attempt to get my hands on these particular seeds as I wait out the winter gardening inside. ‘Wagnerianus’ is a tidier, dwarfier version of normal T. fortunei palms, eventually topping out at about sixteen feet (just under five meters). The fronds are smaller, stiffer and rounder, and are held considerably more upright, than the straight species. Both characteristics seem to have given it much increased winter-hardiness, as well. I’ve been wanting to try one in the far back corner of the garden to counterbalance the golden grove of bamboo (Phyllostachys aureosulcata) on the other side.

Trachycarpus fortunei is supposed to be very cold-hardy as it is. Reports have it handling chills between 5 and −5° Fahrenheit (−15° C to −20° C). Even some mature trees surviving a cold plunge in Plovdiv, Bulgaria that apparently tumbled the temperatures down to just over −17° Fahrenheit (−27.5° C). That’s pretty exceptional for a palm tree.

Windmill palms also seem to be increasingly popping up on Long Island. I noticed that this pair at
 Roslyn Harbor was added to Wikipedia quite recently. The same polar vortex that dropped the temperature to 2° Fahrenheit (−16.5° C) around these trees in early January stopped short in Hortulus Fuchsiarum at only 8°Fahrenheit (−13° C). A piece of frosted cake for my future palms. That’s as low as I’ve ever measured.

According to the tracking info from the grower, my first attempt at seeds was disappeared by the United States Postal Service in Merrifield, Virginia on a cold January Tuesday. At 0:00 hours. The clock stuck midnight and... Poof. Scanned once and gone. You would think there were pumpkins and carriages involved. I know these are trying meteorological times but whatever happened to “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”?

Anyway... So now twelve replacements have arrived and are taking a rejuvenating soak. They’ll be potted up tomorrow to wake to the world under the plant lights. I know, I know, twelve windmill palms is probably an overly ambitious program for a small garden. I’d actually like one windmill palm. Or possibly a three-some of windmill palms cavorting in the corner. But seeds are cheap and efficient and half the fun is in sharing the harvest. Even better. More like three-quarters of the fun in this case.

While the ‘Wagnerianus’ seeds will sprout soon enough, the garden rests for the moment trapped under its think layer of snow. That’s not all bad. Snow is a good buffer against those periodic polar vortices that have been gripping us since January.

And the frequent refreshings of white have lent the City a more moody, brooding winter air than usual. In fact, it’s making things feel a little Film Noir-ish. As I stomped my way to work through the latest accumulation this past week, I saw other prisoners of the snow like me and my garden.


Prisoners of the snow.


Snow bike.


Snow pikes.


Snow lion.


Snow car. Well... maybe.


Snow steps.


Snow cones.