August 6, 2013

“Queen palms are just like people.” – Gabe, Queen Palm Zen Master

Gabe works at nearby Whitfill Nursery and considers himself an expert at the Syagrus romanzoffiana, better known in these parts as the Queen Palm. They’re ubiquitous here in the Valley of the Sun, but most plant guys will tell you they really don’t like the soil here and, as a result, require a lot of attention and care if they’re to prosper. Well, those plant guys obviously haven’t met my next-door neighbor who, between his front and back yards, has a dozen of them and they’re all doing great. And he does nothing to take of them, knows nothing about ’em. He just leaves them be to sink or swim on their own. It’s a strategy they appear to approve of.

I’ve lost two of the three queen palms that were originally planted in a triangle facing out from my southeast corner wall around the time our house was built. We lost the first one about five years ago – not sure why, but it was always the runt of the litter and we figured the other two just overpowered it by taking all the available nutrients out of the soil for themselves. The second we lost this year as a direct result of my January water fiasco when one of Carmelo’s guys accidentally set the weekly one-hour watering the queens and my backyard bushes got to run daily, and the (at least) week-long deluge of water ended up rotting out its root system. Fortunately, the third one survived and appears to still be doing OK.

Tracey and I were trying to figure out what we wanted to do with the corner, and I thought of not replacing the two queens at all because – at least on our side of the wall – they’ve been such a pain in the neck to fuss over.

Enter Gabe, Queen Palm Zen Master.

This past Saturday, I drive into Whitfill on Saturday on a whim and see Gabe sitting in a golf cart talking with a bunch of workers on their lunch break. He asks what I’m looking for and I start to mention something about replacing my queen palms.

“Replace your queen palms?”, he asks. “Would you replace a family member you didn’t like?”

(Now actually, I can think of a couple-two-three so-called “family members” worth replacing, but we won’t get into that. Besides, Gabe wouldn’t let me answer his question which I figured was simply rhetorical in nature, anyways.)

“If you have a queen palm problem, the only solution is to deal with it from a queen palm perspective. Hop in my cart.”

Which I proceeded to do as Gabe drove me around to the area where they had dozens of queen palms in all sizes and prices. I told him my sad tale, and Gabe felt my pain.

“It sounds like your queen palm got waterboarded”, Gabe says thoughtfully. “People don’t like to be waterboarded, neither do queen palms.” I’m trying to wrap my brain around equating waterboarding Al-Qaeda terrorist suspects with an accidental turn of a watering system setting, but then again, I don’t love queen palms as much as Gabe does.

“Queens go dormant in the winter and even watering them once a week can lead them to stress. You were watering your queens too much in the winter to begin with. People like to rest after a long, hard work season, queens need to rest as well. So you gotta let them rest. Now during the summertime, that’s when you gotta water ’em – twice a week 45-60 minutes is good as long as your soil drains well. And you have to feed them – in March and in September. They’re picky, just like a beautiful woman is picky, so feeding them all year round can be a problem if you’re not doing it right.”

Gabe shows me his selection of queens, then we head back towards the entrance. I’ve been there only five minutes and I feel like I’ve met the Zen Master of Queen Palms. I ask him if it’s OK for queen palms to be crowded in, like my three in the corner were originally.

Gabe steps out of the cart into the sun. “See me? Do I like being out in the sun all by myself? No. I need shade from the sun and protection from the wind. Queen palms are just like people. You put a bunch together and they protect each other from the shade and the monsoon winds. Nobody ought to be alone.”

“Some mesquites don’t like to be planted near each other and touch one another.”, I counter.

Gabe practically spits his answer on the ground. “That’s their problem.”

Now I’m starting to get it. Gabe’s a people person and treats people and plants alike. I think he’s found the right business to be in, because he’s already convinced me to replace my two lost queens with new ones this fall. I’m hooked like a rainbow trout, confirming once again why car dealers always enjoyed seeing the likes of me walk through their showroom doors. I can practically hear the wheels in Gabe’s brain churning.

“Here’s what we’re gonna do. The week after Labor Day you’re gonna call my friend Chivo, who used to work here. Good man, stump remover supremo. He’ll dig up your two stumps and leave a nice hole for me. Then, you’re gonna call me and I’m gonna come over and see exactly what you have for space so I can pick out the perfect palms for you. Then, we’ll plant them for you and put them on a feeding schedule. We’ll get those palms feeling welcome and happy, and you’ll have a beautiful corner once again full of queens, eh, amigo?”

Gabe is clearly a man with a plan, my kind of guy. More than that, he’s right – our corner really looked really beautiful when we had the three queens there, and it would be nice to see the area restored to its original look. I feel silly for having thought seriously about replacing the queens with something else. Tracey was horrified at the thought.

Now everyone is happy – Tracey, me, and Gabe the Queen Palm Zen Master.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 03:10 | Comments (2)
2 Comments »
  1. then I must be the banana tree zen mistress…love my bananas.
    Hey….what about the SKYPE call we had talked about? I will be at the lake this weekend and we do have internet. I think I have sent you my skype address……………so how about Thurs night for cocktails via SKYPE. I will bring a bottle of The Blond and a fav martini glass.
    You name the time.

    Comment by jana — August 6, 2013 @ 3:18 pm


  2. I’ll bee traveling next Thursday, how about the Thurs after that? 8/22.

    Comment by The Great White Shank — August 9, 2013 @ 8:48 pm


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