Pocket Guide to Palms, by Martin Gibbons.  Cartwell Books.  $24.00

By M. Joyce Martin

Did you know that palm trees grow in other places besides the tropics?  On a trip to Scotland I was surprised to see them growing along the western coast there. I also have noticed them growing well in malls. One old aunt of mine had one doing well in her house in New Haven, Conn.

I tried growing palms twice in my life, once here in Colorado in my studio, which did very well – a Chamaedorea microspadix or bamboo palm – and once in Florida. The latter was kind of crazy.  I figured such big seeds should be planted according to size so I dug holes three feet deep and for five years, I wondered whatever happened to my coconuts. They finally pushed their way into sunlight just in time for me to dig and transplant them to a new house we had purchased.  I could have made use of the Pocket Guide to PALMS, by Martin Gibbons, that I am reviewing.

Martin says he killed his first palms with over watering, so I guess I did not do so badly after all. He calls his book a “pocket guide” but – although it is a small book – it would not fit in any pockets or purses I own.  It is a beautiful little book, with a different palm pictured in color and described on each page. Although there are over 3,000 kinds of palms throughout the world, he covers 200.  He tells how each one should be planted and cared for. 

For a small book, it weighs a bit on the heavy side, due to the very fine quality paper and hardcover. It is jammed with interesting material, however, I must say the print is very small and hard to read if one wears glasses or for those not yet willing to admit they need them.

For those who receive those lovely dish gardens with palms in them this is a great book to help you identify them and care for them.  It is not the kind of book to curl up by the fire and read through on a stormy winter night.  Leave it on the bookshelf for occasional reference but check it every so often to make sure the bookworms aren’t turning it into compost.  It is much too nice a book to be treated like that!