A cooperative arrangement between UGA and the Southeastern Palm and Exotic Plant Society will offer an experimental and display collection of more than 60 species of palms and cycads, including many which have never been evaluated in this area.
According to Tom McClendon, Augusta, Ga., president of SEPEPS, the palm collection should eventually be the largest north of Fairchild Tropical Garden in Miami.
"Palms are often overlooked in landscape plantings north of Augusta, Macon and Columbus," McClendon says. However, 50 to 100 species will take temperatures below 20 degrees. A few will handle temperatures below zero.
The needle palm (Rhapidophyllum hystrix), for instance, is one of the most cold-hardy palms, easily taking temperatures down to 5 to 10 degrees below zero for brief periods.
The Mediterranean Fan Palm (Chamaerops humilis) will require some winter protection when temperatures fall below 12 degrees and is about as cold-hardy as gardenia and oleander.
The windmill palm (Trachycarpus fortunei), a native of southeastern China, has been known to be hardy throughout hardiness zone 8 and will prosper in protected areas throughout hardiness zone 7.
The country is divided into zones based on the minimum average temperature. Georgia lies in zones 6 through 8. Plants are tested to see which ones are hardy enough to withstand the minimum average temperature in each zone so that horticulturists can make recommendations as to which plants will grow best in each area.
The Southeastern Palm and Exotic Plant Society compiled a Manual for Growing Palms Outdoors in the Southeast. It, and the society's newsletter, are available with membership for just $10 per year. For membership information, contact Joseph LeVert, 1901 Pennsylvania Ave., Augusta, GA 30904.
The University of Georgia Coastal Gardens are open to the public Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The gardens and bamboo farm are located one mile off I-95, and are accessible from either Hwy. 17 or Hwy. 204 in Savannah. For more information call (912) 921-5461.