With work on our design for the hospice garden in Weston super Mare now in full spate, sensory plants are very much on our minds.

Since, at the request of many of the staff there, they are a key element in the new garden.

Of course the planting plans were completed months ago.

But the thing lives in your consciousness.

So it was that when I was gardening beneath the trachycarpus the other day I was especially aware of its sensory nature.

And it does the lot!

Its fibrous trunk is a touchy-feeler’s dream.

There is also a visual texture in the rhythmic sprinkle of the cut off stubs of old leaves.

Its soft yellow flowers are visual, but fragrant too.

The fruits which follow are fascinatingly arranged on golden yellow spikes – a bit like one of those multi dimensional cell diagrams.

Movement is in sensual plant terms an underrated element of the visual sense – everyone talks colour.

And Trachycarpus is an underrated agent to explore movment-everyone talks grasses and dieramas.


The large fan shaped leaves on long narrow stems move in the slightest breeze, up or down, from side to side as the current takes them.

I’ve also noticed that the long prongs or fingers of the leaves also vibrate within the same plane on certain air currents.

Of course with all this movement there is the attendant rustle as its leaves plane the air and in death, if you leave them, the old leaves hang down and gentle clatter stifflytogether.

To all these conventional senses is one of an unparalleled luxuriance and exoticism. None of the tawdriness of Torbay palms here!

This is of course a visual  reward as is year round evergreen, but it is also a ‘feel good’ factor. It removes many of us instantly to the vacations we have enjoyed or dreamt of.

The other ‘feel good’ sense is of verticality. Of being raised up. We do mentally soar with them!

So the Chusan palm engages all the senses.

Even in Winter it fascinates:

Given this, you won’t be surprised that they are going to figure at the hospice. We will fill you in on this shortly.

Are they for you?

Well you can google for all the cultural stuff. Sheltered and south is best. I’d not bother in Bolton or at Lands End.

But I’d not let either space or height put you off. They are slow, which can be a plus or a minus depending on your point of view. So buy the most expensive largest plant you can afford. It means you can also grow it in large tubs tho you must water and feed to keep it looking good!

In this circumstance I think I might opt for the species wagnerianus which is a miniature.

L and R

PS. You will have noticed of course that taste doesn’t figure. Not literal taste at least!

Buy yourself some figs and pretend they come from the same palm?