Hi, let me introduce myself, I’m Dave Brown and live at Chalk, North Kent, on the Thames Estuary, 35 Miles East of London, England. I have been growing palms and exotics since the early 1970s, after being told by my father, “don’t be silly, they won’t Grow in England”. That threw down the gauntlet. It has been a lifetime’s work finding out what WILL grow, but I have ended up with a garden that amazes most visitors, looking like it has been moved from somewhere more exotic.
Many of the pictures on this website are of palms and exotics in my garden, so I think I can safely say I met the challenge of growing palm trees in England. I have many Palms, Bananas, Agaves, Cycads, and Cordylines which grow outside all year round, plus huge leaved Alocasia, Colocasia, Ensete and Cacti that are housed in an unheated conservatory during winter. My wife, Kim, and Son, Aidan (Webmaster) have set up Hardy Tropicals to advertise what can be grown in a cool temperate climate.
How did I get involved in exotic gardening back in the 1970s ?
Well, in 1970, at the age of 14, I went on my first foreign holiday, to Majorca in the Mediterranean. The land of the Palm trees. I was totally besotted by the tropical form of palms and wanted to grow them at home.
The holiday was in mid December so it was not a beach affair. It was warm enough to sit in the sun for a couple of hours a day, but it cooled off rapidly, and was cold overnight with frost. This was totally alien to what I had expected. I thought palm trees required heat, and there wasn’t any! My thoughts were… If palms can stand frost in Majorca, why can’t they stand it in England, and I couldn’t see any reason why not. This was when my father told me not to be silly “Palm trees won’t grow in England”. Now having several palms himself, he has admitted he was mis informed.
When I returned home the hunt for palm trees started, but it was an uphill struggle as the nurseries all said we don’t sell them, they don’t grow in England. The closest I got was a yucca, which I was told was not hardy. Of course, it was.
I went to Majorca again in July 1973 to experience the wamth of the Mediterranean summer, and to Ibiza in 1975 where I aquired Al Agave, I was hooked… a complete heat freak, but it was 1975 before I laid my hands on a real palm of my own. Trunky Trachy,
From there things snowballed but the real big breakthrough was the emergence of the internet from about 1990 onward. Now it is clear that many more exotic plants are hardy in the UK.