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Swolte

The life of my Phoenix Theophrasti

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Swolte

Planning to chronicle the life of my Phoenix Theophrasti in this thread for those who are interested.

I received this specimen from TCHP two years ago (fall of 2018, if I am not mistaken...) when it was about 21" long and had a small trunk of 1.75 inches. I am guessing its the green variant but TCHP can probably tell me more about about the origin of the seed batch. 

Frankly, I was not impressed with how it handled the first winter. I pulled a spear pull and it lost most of its leaves in a fairly mild winter (I don't think we even went lower than 25F that year). I basically left it for dead (no watering or any sort of care) and would have removed it had I not forgotten about it. That following year, however, there was some green returning. In January 2020 I measured no increase in trunk size and the height had actually decreased (due to frond die back) but it was green nonetheless. Reports that it needs a lot of water to survive (note: not thrive!) are not true in my experience: I am talking Texas summers without irrigation! As of today (January 2021), I am measuring a small increase in trunk size: 2" and its height is about 18". 

But there's a problem. The palm, which is considered to be among the most dangerous in the world, is next to a garden walkway! Not to mention that I now have a small and cute daughter who I don't like to see impaled by its spikes. 
 

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Edited by Swolte
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Swolte

I found a different site that has numerous advantages:

- Sunny. This site will receive more than 6 hours of full and unfiltered afternoon sun in the summer.
- Much closer to creek. This may resemble their natural habitat as they are known to grow close to waterways in Europe/Crete. 
- Safety. Its on a relatively separate but slightly downward sloping plateau, completely out of range of a walkway. 
- View. The house actually has a creek-view (I will take a pic in Spring) and I wanted a large palm there to be the focal point.

The problem is that the site is currently inhabited by a large, ugly, and dying post oak. Also, the area is overgrown by yaupons (I already removed some in the picture. Imagine not being able to see the trunk for up to 6ft). Yaupons are quite aggressive here so I will have to remove every bit of root. 
 

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Edited by Swolte
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Swolte

Step 1: Cut down tree
This actually went quite smoothly. I had an electric chainsaw and just received a new and razor-sharp chain from Santa. The tree was already leaning a bit towards the creek so this was done within 15 minutes.

Step 2: Remove trunk
I have no pics of this moment but I guess you can imagine the problem. The tree fell it formed a perfect bridge across the creek (towards my neighbor's property). The trunk was too heavy to move so I had to cut it close to the edge of my side of the creek (in a V-shape cut and with the help of some support logs and my trusted hand axe). Not easy but I was able to push it into the creek.  Decided to leave it there. Doesn't look bad and it will probably look even more interesting in a year or two.

Step 3: Remove roots
I got a reciprocating saw from Santa and I figured it would come in handy with removing the roots. I first dug a hole around the roots with my trusted slayer spade (awesome tool) but quickly realized that I was hitting hard clay when I got deeper. My power tool was practically useless in that situation as it couldn't get good movement between the roots (not to mention it ran out of power very fast). 
So, manual labor it was. I'll be honest in saying I thought about giving up twice. I did most of the work with a hand axe (and that includes removing the clay!!). It took patience and the thought that it would eventually fall if I just kept chipping away at it for hours (podcasts are great).

And hours it took (6-ish in total). My arms still hurt as I am typing this! I think that this was the toughest stump removal I ever did (well, perhaps a tie with the one where I hit a large nest of red ants and discovered it way too late in all the fervor). Very satisfying when it finally came out. Greatly loosened up the clay in the area too.
 

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Swolte

The hard part was over and now it was time to:

Step 4: Fill the hole
Backfilled it with the native soil. I made sure to make two mounds uphill so I could just pushed it down with my shoe (why not). Fun.

Step 5: Remove Yaupon roots
This was quite the task but necessary. They were deep and I ended up removing quite some of the soil structure on the sides. Brute force approach. I would probably cut them real tight and use some glyphosate or something next time (as it would leave soil structure intact).  Now I have to worry a bit about erosion. Threw the roots in the creek which now looks like a mess (will probably end up fishing them out again...). Live and learn!

Suggestions for small planting on the sides to prevent erosion are welcome!

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Swolte

And now to the parts I always enjoy the most!

Step 6: Make planting hole. 
I mounded up the area to about a feet with a heavy topsoil mixed in with the native soil. Has a sandy loam feel too it (readily falls apart when crushed lightly). 

Step 7: Dig out the palm from original location
Since the palm was planted in a similar medium, I tried to leave the roots as undisturbed as possible and move it with soil and all. I noticed the growing tips were about a foot out so I dug a hole that size around, and underneath, it.  I was able to pick up the palm and its soil with my arms without it falling apart (any tips for 'safer' methods are welcome).

Step 8: Transplant and water! 
I then placed the palm in its new home, added more soil to even it out, and gave it a good watering with rainwater collected from the downpour the last couple of days. The last pic also shows some of the root-y mess in the creek I'll have to clean up in days to come. 

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Edited by Swolte
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iamjv

Wow that was a lot of work to relocate the Theo but I think it looks great in this spot and hopefully will grow well there for you !!!      Look forward to updates....

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Chester B

If you ever have to remove another stump, I have few tips.  I have removed more trees than I want to think of.  I use a large digging bar, combined with a shovel and a small hand held tree pruning saw.  Basically you try and excavate around exposing the main roots and use the hand saw to cut them.  The big bar has a lot of leverage and you use that for digging, prying to break more roots and to rock the stump to get access to the big roots underneath.  It's still not easy but you can usually get a large stump out in 1-2 hours, depending on the species.  Conifers take about half the time.

Good luck and lets hope for a huge palm in a few years.

Truper Tru Pro 69-in Post-hole Digging Bar in the Digging Bars department  at Lowes.com

 

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Fallen Munk
39 minutes ago, Chester B said:

I use a large digging bar, combined with a shovel and a small hand held tree pruning saw.  Basically you try and excavate around exposing the main roots and use the hand saw to cut them. 

Same.  And leave the stump longer when you cut the tree down so you can use it as leverage to push and pull to loosen it from the hole.  If you cut it off too short you can't get any leverage on it and it will double or triple the time it takes to remove it.

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Chester B
11 minutes ago, Fallen Munk said:

Same.  And leave the stump longer when you cut the tree down so you can use it as leverage to push and pull to loosen it from the hole.  If you cut it off too short you can't get any leverage on it and it will double or triple the time it takes to remove it.

Thanks for saying that - I didn't remember to mention it, but this is crucial.

As for that bar I use it all the time instead of a shovel/spade, it makes quick work of our clay especially when its dried out in summer.

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VA Palmer
40 minutes ago, Chester B said:

Thanks for saying that - I didn't remember to mention it, but this is crucial.

As for that bar I use it all the time instead of a shovel/spade, it makes quick work of our clay especially when its dried out in summer.

Ha, I have done the same with that bar to make way for palms and bamboo.

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Chester B

I also like to use a mattock.

image.jpeg.8afec91f10093a08df3fe1e3e9c92fac.jpeg

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JLM

We had to take out this stump from a tree that we havent identified, when we took out that stump, there was a pine tree stump under it. We still have a huge oak stump to take care of. We didnt have one of those bars, but we used a shovel, mattock, and a truck & chain. This stump removal will make way for the spring project.

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DAVEinMB

Sawzall works great for large roots

Edited by DAVEinMB

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Fusca
20 hours ago, Swolte said:

But there's a problem. The palm, which is considered to be among the most dangerous in the world, is next to a garden walkway! Not to mention that I now have a small and cute daughter who I don't like to see impaled by its spikes. 

Quite a project indeed!  New location looks like a great spot away from pedestrians.   I'm sure your daughter will appreciate the move!  They're nice palms but very prickly.  I think mine could be a sibling of yours as I got mine from Joseph a few months before you got yours.  Don't forget that they sucker so you'll still want to keep it trimmed.  Better not to let it get out of hand...

Edited by Fusca
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Swolte

Good tips, I will need to get one of those digging bars! I have tried handsaws before but I have found them quite exhausting and slow to work with. I get faster and easier results with a small handaxe that has a good grip. Can I ask what saw you are using? 
 

3 hours ago, DAVEinMB said:

Sawzall works great for large roots

I was disappointed in these as I have read very good stories about them. I do feel it may have been this specific tree and the site (the clay). Somehow the saw generated too much friction (I even got smoke). I have some cedar stumps to remove next that are in a more loamy soil and I think the sawzall may shine a bit more in those situations. I'll be able to dig around the roots more and its way easier to get underneath them. 

1 hour ago, Fusca said:

I think mine could be a sibling of yours as I got mine from Joseph a few months before you got yours.

Hah, great, I am excited to visit your garden (hopefully) in the spring sometime. A close look at your Theophrasti will be interesting for comparison. Now that I have mine in its final spot (that I am really happy with) I will also take better care of it. 

Edited by Swolte
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Swolte

And the finishing touches on the site!

Step 9: More soil
On top of everything I spread 1" of high quality, organically rich, topsoil! The brown stuff on the picture. 

Step 10: Mulch, mulch, mulch!
Then, I added a ~ 6" layer of mulch (coarse natural hardwood chips) around the entire area to prevent erosion, keep the roots insulated, suppress weeds, and provide some more nutrients in the distant future as it all breaks down!

Also cleaned up the creek a bit today and watered it again. 

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Edited by Swolte
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Chester B
41 minutes ago, Swolte said:

Good tips, I will need to get one of those digging bars! I have tried handsaws before but I have found them quite exhausting and slow to work with. I get faster and easier results with a small handaxe that has a good grip. Can I ask what saw you are using? 
 

Something like this:

Amazon.com : Corona Razor Tooth Pruning Saw, 13 Inch Curved Blade, RS 7120,  Red : Handsaws : Garden & Outdoor

Don't waste your money on a good one because you will dull it pretty quick working around the dirt.  You're only cutting the roots not the main trunk so it's pretty quick to get through them.  

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climate change virginia

I only cut trees down if they are sick 




"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
~ Neil deGrasse Tyson

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James760
15 hours ago, climate change virginia said:

I only cut trees down if they are sick 




"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
~ Neil deGrasse Tyson

"The machinery of propaganda may pack their minds with falsehood and deny them the truth for many generations of time. But the soul of man thus held in trance, or frozen in a long night, can be awakened by a spark coming from God knows where, and in a moment the whole structure of lies and oppression is on trail for its life."

~ Winston S. Churchill 

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climate change virginia
6 hours ago, James760 said:

"The machinery of propaganda may pack their minds with falsehood and deny them the truth for many generations of time. But the soul of man thus held in trance, or frozen in a long night, can be awakened by a spark coming from God knows where, and in a moment the whole structure of lies and oppression is on trail for its life."

~ Winston S. Churchill 

how do you get quotes and words at the bottom of your message? I was trying to do that (that is an amazing quote)

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DAVEinMB
On 1/4/2021 at 5:16 PM, Swolte said:

I was disappointed in these as I have read very good stories about them. I do feel it may have been this specific tree and the site (the clay). Somehow the saw generated too much friction (I even got smoke). I have some cedar stumps to remove next that are in a more loamy soil and I think the sawzall may shine a bit more in those situations. I'll be able to dig around the roots more and its way easier to get underneath them. 

Yea clay will definitely make things more difficult. I used a 10" or 12" wood blade to make my way through some really large pine tree roots in my back yard. I had the same situation as you were seeing...smoke, excessive friction, etc. The soil was a nice sandy loam so it was easy enough to move out of the way but it'll quickly dull the blade. It still took some effort but was much easier than the mattock and hatchet I was previously trying to use. I'll see if I have some pics...

P.s. awesome thread, really looking forward to seeing the palms progression

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kinzyjr
8 hours ago, climate change virginia said:

how do you get quotes and words at the bottom of your message? I was trying to do that (that is an amazing quote)

You can put them in your signature by going to Account Settings under your user ID in the top right corner.

image.png.cfe434991cf0eb09654e0f410ce65175.png

Once there, click on Signature

image.thumb.png.44d5a96fa2adf1074cac4b1f48190027.png

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climate change virginia
28 minutes ago, kinzyjr said:

You can put them in your signature by going to Account Settings under your user ID in the top right corner.

image.png.cfe434991cf0eb09654e0f410ce65175.png

Once there, click on Signature

image.thumb.png.44d5a96fa2adf1074cac4b1f48190027.png

now I got it thanks :greenthumb:

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James760

@climate change virginia, I'm not sure what you mean. I just free wrote that quote, no copy/paste. But it looks like you got help on your question :greenthumb:

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climate change virginia

@James760yup I got it :)

Edited by climate change virginia

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Swolte

January 2021: Protected by a frost blanket through the Texas snowstorm of January '21 (never seen so much snow since I moved from Canada). The first pic shows the creek view from the house!
 

Theo.jpg

Theo2.jpg

Edited by Swolte
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Chester B

Us Canadians get around!  I hate the white stuff, too bad you got hammered. 

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Swolte
1 hour ago, Chester B said:

 I hate the white stuff, too bad you got hammered. 

Thanks, luckily it wasn't extremely cold (around 30F) and most of the snow will likely be gone by tomorrow. I was enjoying the scenery!

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Collectorpalms
28 minutes ago, Swolte said:

Thanks, luckily it wasn't extremely cold (around 30F) and most of the snow will likely be gone by tomorrow. I was enjoying the scenery!

Dates that size can have spear pull for sure during this weather. I have a P Theo that is about 15 feet tall. its hidden by live oaks in back yard. need to prune them back, cant see it.

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Swolte

Did a bit more work on the site today. 

I added a ring of egg rock around the palm to deter the dreaded Ox Beetle (especially on young palms). I already lost a riverside Sabal to these buggers so I hope this helps. 

Second, I transplanted a Hibiscus Sinosyriacus to the spot in the right.  Hibiscus, at least certain types, do OK here for me but their biggest threat are deer. Last summer, I didn't get ANY flowers as deer started to munch on the leaves. I am hoping that, when the palm grows, the spikes and the location will make it harder (read: deadly... :p) for deer to reach that area. Turning those spikes to my advantage, hah! I got quite excited about the idea as, if it works, I am able to grow some more plants around that area that suffer from browsing deer (which is an overwhelming lot...). This specific specimen of hibiscus is from east-asia and very rare to find in nurseries (supposedly a hybrid with the more well-known Rose of Sharon). It forms a small tree with woody stems that feature large pink flowers during the fall. I wanted something with large flowers in that area so we can see it from across the creek. Its currently 1 foot tall.  Since the palm is still small, I built a little construction to protect it from the deer. 

Third, to the left you can see a Roldana Aschenboriniana. This is an evergreen shrub from Mexico with leaves resembling an Oak Leaf hydrangea and bunches of small yellow flowers in spring. This plant is also very rare and there's very little, and quite conflicting, information available on the web about it. Some sources say it needs quite some water whereas others say its quite drought tolerant (e.g., Dave's). Further, San Marcos growers claims in can be placed in full sun (in Texas) but I tend to go with claims that it needs some shade, especially when young. The nursery manager at JFGardens (where I got them) advises to keep them very well-watered when young and in part sun (he's killed several that were in full sun).  So, you can see in the second pic, I built a sun screen from frost-cloth that will shade it until the Theophrasti grows larger. Anyway, this one is a bit of a trial balloon! 

Theo3.jpg

Theo4.jpg

Edited by Swolte
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Swolte

Preventing the title of the thread to turn into 'The Death of my Phoenix Theophrasti', I decided to protect the palm against the upcoming (potentially historic) arctic blast here in Texas. 

First picture just shows a small 'upgrade' to the area done last month. I added a thick layer of (mostly oak) leaves around the ridge and mulched it. This just makes the area more uniform, marks the borders of the path, prevents erosion, and eventually contributes to soil building over time! Did this a couple a weeks ago!

Second picture. Cold protection. I first sprayed some Daconil fungicide (into) the spear. Should be effective for 2 weeks for the prevention of fungal disease. Then, I wrapped a thick one-foot layer of hay around palm. Its too far from the house to provide an electrical source of heat.

Third picture. Tightly wrapped a frost cloth the hay and secured it with clips and stick stakes. If the cold gets really terrible, I may add another cloth layer. 

That's the plan! We'll find out in a few weeks what the damage is!!

Theo1.jpg

Theo2.jpg

Theo3.jpg

Edited by Swolte
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Collectorpalms
2 hours ago, Swolte said:

Preventing the title of the thread to turn into 'The Death of my Phoenix Theophrasti', I decided to protect the palm against the upcoming (potentially historic) arctic blast here in Texas. 

First picture just shows a small 'upgrade' to the area done last month. I added a thick layer of (mostly oak) leaves around the ridge and mulched it. This just makes the area more uniform, marks the borders of the path, prevents erosion, and eventually contributes to soil building over time! Did this a couple a weeks ago!

Second picture. Cold protection. I first sprayed some Daconil fungicide (into) the spear. Should be effective for 2 weeks for the prevention of fungal disease. Then, I wrapped a thick one-foot layer of hay around palm. Its too far from the house to provide an electrical source of heat.

Third picture. Tightly wrapped a frost cloth the hay and secured it with clips and stick stakes. If the cold gets really terrible, I may add another cloth layer. 

That's the plan! We'll find out in a few weeks what the damage is!!

Theo1.jpg

Theo2.jpg

Theo3.jpg

You went though way too much work to NOT.

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Laaz

Theophrasti is super hardy. Mine have been in the ground over 15 years & have neve been protected & never had spear pull. Even the 2018 16F freezing rain & snow in the crown didn't faze them.

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DAVEinMB
6 minutes ago, Laaz said:

Theophrasti is super hardy. Mine have been in the ground over 15 years & have neve been protected & never had spear pull. Even the 2018 16F freezing rain & snow in the crown didn't faze them.

How big were they when you planted them? Every smaller phoenix I've tried has spear pulled. Seems to be overall amount of rain more than ultimate low

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Laaz

Small 5 gallon.

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Meangreen94z

I would have dug it out of the ground at this point, I’m not sure if that will be enough. Hopefully.

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Swolte

Current predictions are terrible!

I'll throw some more things on top, for sure. I'll see if I have time/willpower on Sunday to dig it out if predictions hold (or worsen). Time is really ticking though. I still have a lot of non-palms to protect (the zone 7 types). I had begun to dig out some precious agaves (and/or save some of their pups) and cacti last night. 

Weather 4.PNG

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TexasColdHardyPalms

I have 5 larger ones that will not be protected. Theyll either live or die. 

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amh
On 2/12/2021 at 8:54 AM, Swolte said:

Current predictions are terrible!

I'll throw some more things on top, for sure. I'll see if I have time/willpower on Sunday to dig it out if predictions hold (or worsen). Time is really ticking though. I still have a lot of non-palms to protect (the zone 7 types). I had begun to dig out some precious agaves (and/or save some of their pups) and cacti last night. 

Your Phoenix might be just small enough to survive due to radiant heat from the ground. I have a small Phoenix dactylifera that refuses to die, even after being exposed to 8F.

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amh
5 minutes ago, TexasColdHardyPalms said:

I have 5 larger ones that will not be protected. Theyll either live or die. 

Let us know the outcome.

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