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From the President: Landscape, Design and the Phoenix

by Cali Doxiadis
photographs by Cali Doxiadis

For the full article see The Mediterranean Garden No 46, October 2006.

In her article where she discusses the planting of trees at odds with the landscape, Cali Doxiadis makes the suggestion that the way of pruning of the Canary Island Palm, Phoenix canariensis, can affect its congruity.

"It used to be that, seen from afar in the open countryside, they (Phoenix canariensis) were the unfailing marker of the presence of a house of some status. As such, and seen in the distance, rising among other trees, set against a natural landscape, sporting their shaggy manes of dry fronds, they're actually not incongruous at all but fit right in. Could it be that their often questionable appropriateness in this context is merely a question of barbering?
It is as if their dry thatch grounds them and restores a balance that is lost with the excessive removal of spent fronds that leaves the trees posed artificially on tiptoe like ballerinas or flamingos. Having had this thought I started observing the "pruning" style of Phoenix canariensis. I realized that the trees are systematically over de-fronded, mostly, I suppose, because the unwieldy size and the vicious thorns of the base make the procedure an awkward one, even when the height of the tree is manageable. To make the necessity for de-fronding less frequent, people tend to overdo it, stripping above the line of dry fronds to the line of yellow bunches of "dates," thus leaving only the new stiff fronds that stick upwards with a brush-like effect rather than having a "fountain" of gently curving plumes that forms a balanced top worthy of the long trunk. Am I suggesting leaving some dry fronds? Why not? Seen from a distance it is the shape not the colour that matters and very tall trees are usually seen from a distance."


A Canary Island Palm with the dry fronds removed
conservatively so that the "fountain effect" is unaffected.
Closely planted with other trees it fits into the natural landscape.


A Canary Island Palm with the fronds removed
"preventively" up to the fruiting line, resulting in a "broom effect".
Planted far from other trees, it looks unnatural and unconnected to the landscape.

 

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