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Required Reading: Designing With Palms

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Required Reading: Designing With Palms

February 21, 2018

I always wonder if the reason palms are so admired is because they evoke dreamy tropical locations: It’s the idea that if you plant them, warm breezes will come. In reality, palm trees are not magical weather makers, but they do elicit a powerful suggestion that a white sandy beach could be close by.

Palms are the ultimate statement-making plants to enhance outdoor spaces in warm climates, and Designing with Palms dives deep into this important species. Our guide through this essential reference book is palm expert Jason Dewees, a staff horticulturist at Flora Grubb Gardens and East West Trees in California (plus, he is on advisory committees for the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers and the San Francisco Botanical Garden).

Please keep reading to learn more about these stately plants.

Photography by Caitlin Atkinson, courtesy of Timber Press.

A layered look in a human-scale garden offers a lesson in how to incorporate palms into our own landscapes.
Above: A layered look in a human-scale garden offers a lesson in how to incorporate palms into our own landscapes.

Together author Dewees and photographer Caitlin Atkinson break through the typical tropical stereotypes to broaden the restricted reputation of palms. Traditionally palms happily thrive only in temperate climates, but this new book shows numerous and surprisingly diverse landscape options, opening our idea of how to incorporate palms into our gardens.

Palms created a layered look in a tropical garden.
Above: Palms created a layered look in a tropical garden.

Dewees walks us through the critical criteria for different palms, including pruning, nutrition, and transplanting. We learn about climate, parts of the palm, and ruling out palm imposters. When used properly in a garden design, with knowledge and skill, palms do a stellar job and can immediately transform a garden.

In a California garden, a backdrop of palms draws the eye toward the horizon.
Above: In a California garden, a backdrop of palms draws the eye toward the horizon.

Through the book we travel and get closer to exotic, oasis-like gardens. We also tour places where palms are iconic symbols, including south Florida, Palm Springs, and southern California. American urban, rural, and suburban gardens are also represented, illustrating the wide range of the species.

Lacy palm fronds soften the silhouette of a concrete stairway.
Above: Lacy palm fronds soften the silhouette of a concrete stairway.

The last section of Designing with Palms is a portfolio of palm species. Alphabetically we learn about different varieties, from rare and not attainable to others available at local nurseries.

Well-chosen images help clarify and demonstrate the style and ultimate size of the palms.
Above: Well-chosen images help clarify and demonstrate the style and ultimate size of the palms.
 If you want to successfully add more bold fronds and a tropical style to your landscape, Designing With Palms is the comprehensive book for you.
Above: If you want to successfully add more bold fronds and a tropical style to your landscape, Designing With Palms is the comprehensive book for you.

A hardcover copy of Designing with Palms is $40. from Amazon.
Above: A hardcover copy of Designing with Palms is $40.24 from Amazon.
See more about palms in Palms 101: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design and find more of our favorite tropical houseplants in Tropical Plants 101 and Houseplants 101, including:

Finally, get more ideas on how to successfully plant, grow, and care for palm with our Palm: A Field Guide.

Interested in other types of trees? Get more ideas on how to plant, grow, and care for various trees (specimen, deciduous, evergreen) with our Trees: A Field Guide.

Interested in other tropical plants for your garden or indoor space? Get more ideas on how to plant, grow, and care for various tropical plants with our Tropical Plants: A Field Guide.

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