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Palms Won’t Grow Here and Other Myths: Warm–climate Plants for Cooler Areas

Palms Won’t Grow Here and Other Myths: Warm–climate Plants for Cooler Areas
David A. Francko
Timber Press
Publication Date: 

cloth, 267 p., $27.95

If you’re one of those gardeners who love to live on the edge of USDA plant hardiness zones, then this book is for you. And the author is your kind of a guy: a scientist-gardener who likes to challenge rules that tell him palms don’t grow in Oxford, Ohio, or wherever else tropical and sub-tropical plants aren’t supposed to grow.

Palms Won’t Grow Here and Other Myths should fascinate the adventurous gardener looking to grow plants not necessarily cold-hardy in his or her zone. Author David A Francko tells you all about those USDA hardiness zone maps, and how they’re determined. He also explains microclimates and describes what a difference they can make for growing plants. There is information on overwintering plants using various protective strategies, such as mulching, anti-desiccant sprays, wind screens and barriers, and trunk and foliar wraps. But a considerable part of the book is devoted to describing some of the tropical and sub-tropical plants that can be successfully grown far north of their normal range. Palms are a good example: the needle palm, Rhapidophyllum hystrix, grows in Wisconsin and Michigan; the Chinese windmill palm, Thrachycarpus fortunei, survives 14° Fahrenheit temperatures in Oxford, Ohio. A banana tree, Musa bazio, also is able to grow and bear fruit as far north as Ohio.

Nor are these examples unique. Francko explains that with new cold-hardy cultivars, and proper siting, many southern species such as magnolias, bamboos, yuccas, citrus, crepe myrtles, camellias, hollies, bananas and many others, formerly hardy only in zones 7 and 8, can now be grown in zone 6 and even in zone 5 under certain conditions. He provides helpful information on their cultivation and describes how to locate sources.

This was a worthwhile book on a most intriguing subject, well-documented, well-written and fun to read. I enjoyed it. — Jim Kemper