Q: I have heard that palm trees once grew in Palmdale and that’s how the city got its name, but I have never seen any palms here. Can you grow palms in Palmdale?
— Jack McCarthy
A: The first settlers of Palmdale erroneously thought the Joshua trees they saw there were palms, and that is how your city got its name.
The windmill palm (Trachycarpus fortunei) and the Mediterranean fan palm (Chamaerops humilis) will grow as far north as the Palmdale-Lancaster area. The windmill has a hairy trunk topped with fan fronds and a peculiar habit of getting skinnier at its base as it grows taller. Thus, as years go by, the danger of the windmill palm falling over in a storm increases. One should plant several windmill palms together so that they can serve each other as a windbreak.
The Mediterranean fan palm is a multitrunked tree with flat green fronds and a collection of trunks that are brown and hairy. It can grow in any type of soil and in low light, will survive a freeze down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit, and requires a bare minimum of water. ‘Argentea’ is a silvery blue cultivar.
Q: In a small slope area that receives full sun, wind and periodic gopher infestation, what short blooming plants do you suggest? A whiskey barrel, which has been home to our favorite rose bush for 20 plus years, has deteriorated. Shall we try transplanting the rose bush to a new barrel or shall we purchase a new replacement rose bush?
— The Crowell Family
A: You must line your planting hole with fine-mesh wire to keep gophers at bay. For blooming natives that stay around 2 feet in height I would recommend Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium), golden currant (Ribes aureum) and low-growing California lilac (Ceanothus) varieties.
If your favorite rose bush has outlived its whiskey barrel, get another barrel; you may not be able to find the same variety of rose so easily. Remove all the leaves of your rose bush to induce dormancy, and then transplant it.
Q: Last year, I had only one round of blooms from my Acanthus mollis and they were so slow about regenerating their leaves I thought they were goners. Now I find that not only do they look healthy again, but they have procreated nearby. Is it possible that they put so much of their energy into propagation that it kept them from blooming?
— Kristie Daigle
A: Bear’s breech (Acanthus mollis) blooms sporadically; only its remarkable foliage is constant. I think it probably sulked last year on account of our unconscionably hot weather.
TIP OF THE WEEK: In response to Gary, who asked in an e-mail if now is the right time to sprout tomato and pepper seeds indoors: Go ahead and sprout them. The easiest way to do this is to put potting soil in Styrofoam cups, punch holes in the bottom of the cups for drainage, and put the cups on a tray next to a bright window. When seedlings are 4 inches tall, in about a month, transplant them to the garden. Until the end of March, take the precaution of putting one gallon (6-inch diameter) nursery containers over them at night to protect against the possibility of frost.!end!