I’ve been fascinated with Kentia Palms ever since I owned a Kentia Palm seedling export business on Norfolk Island in the South Pacific, and co owner of a Kentia Palm growing business in Michigan. In 2006 I launch a book called Seed to Elegance which detailed the complete history of the Kentia Palm. Since then I have continued to do research about this majestic Palm. This blog endeavors to highlight for readers why the Kentia has so much history attached to it.
Of all the members of the plant kingdom suitable for use as houseplants, none evokes a feeling of the tropics like a Kentia Palm. With its large, architectural leaves and strong outline, the Kentia Palm can help create an indoor Garden of Eden wherever you live. Although quite expensive as houseplants go, Kentia Palms are worth every penny you pay! The Kentia Palm is the hands-down champion indoor plant and has been for centuries. During the Victorian Era, Kentia Palms were all the rage in England, the U.S., and other countries. No house was complete without one Kentia Palm in it. Apartment and houses can be very inhospitable to most plants, but not the Kentia Palm. The Kentia Palm thrives in air-conditioned atmospheres. A well-placed Kentia Palm can make a small room seem larger and a large one more intimate, and is the perfect choice even for a novice plant lover in creating a relaxing tropical atmosphere in their place of residence. To the home consumer who is thinking of buying a Kentia Palm, the expensive price tag might seem a deterrent, but believe me the value you get with the ease of maintenance, longevity of the plant, and the elegance it creates in your home or apartment will convince you that you made a very wise investment in selecting a Kentia Palm for your home.
Back in the late 1800’s Joseph Heacock started a palm growing business in Wyncote, Pennsylvania and began importing Kentia Forsteriana and Belmoerana seed from Lord Howe Island in the South Pacific to germinate at his greenhouse facilities. Joseph’s vision was that Kentia seed germinated at his glasshouse greenhouses would produce a much heartier, finished saleable product compared to the quality that was being imported from Europe. Kentia and other plants imported from Europe had to survive the long journey across the ocean, packed in tight boxes, piled in a hold on the ship without light, ventilation or moisture and, when they arrived in the USA their vitality was so impaired that a majority of the plants weren’t fit for high class trade or decorations. Joseph’s vision proved very profitable. In the early 1900’s his company increased the spacing of his greenhouses so additional space would be devoted to growing more Kentias. He had received many favorable comments from customers and competent plant judges that they had never seen a finer specimen of Kentias than those found at Wyncote. The location of his greenhouses was ideal for shipping his quality Kentia Palm product. At Wyncote they had access to the Philadelphia and Reading railway with direct connections to all main points. From Philadelphia they could ship by water: direct steamers to New York, Boston, the South and Southwest providing efficient service. Joseph’s business motto for his Kentias was “quality first, last and always”.
It usually takes about twelve to fifteen years for a Kentia Palm tree to produce its first crop of seed. They will continue to produce viable seed for many years as the tree ages. Kentia Palm trees on Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island that are in excess of eighty years old still produce viable seed. However those trees that are growing in the wild on Lord Howe Island usually only have a sparse amount of seed on it prior to picking. This can be caused by age, and the lack of care maintenance, or the attack by rats to eat the seed. On Norfolk Island where the trees are cultivated and carefully maintained, they can still produce a large quantity of seed each year for picking even if the tree is over eighty years old. Here are some pictures of some aged Kentia palm trees on Norfolk Island.
Kentia Palms that are grown in the Netherlands are shipped all over Europe. Their upright appearance, created by being produced in enclosed greenhouses, are popular for display in mid size living and eating areas. In Moscow there is an exclusive restaurant called Selfie, and they have used beautiful Kentia Palms to enhance the décor of their establishment. The upright style of European Kentias are ideal for such a dining setting as Selfie.
It has been quite awhile since I’ve visited Norfolk Island or Lord Howe Island, two of my most favorite places in the world. However the many fond memories I have of those two Islands are always reinforced when I see beautiful Kentia Palms. Looking at Kentias in present day home decor or old Victorian time settings remind me of the history associated with these majestic Palms. In the foliage world they have remained the number one indoor Palm for almost 150 years. Their history is directly linked to those two beautiful Islands in the South Pacific. If you have a potted Kentia Palm in your home, and if it could talk it would tell you some fascinating stories about its development since its discovery in the 1800’s! I’m constantly gazing at my Kentia Palm in our home and relive its history in my mind. I would definitely enjoy having a setting like this modern day picture with those four beautiful single potted Kentias.
Ok honestly when was the last time you sincerely thanked your interior plants for all the hard work they are performing on your behalf 24 hours a day. Never? Well here is a good reason to think again before dismissing the thought that others will think you are crazy for talking to your plants. Are you aware the interior air you are breathing daily is 2-5 times more polluted than the air you are breathing outside? The statistic comes from the Environmental Protection Agency. Since the majority of us spend more time inside than outside that is not doing your body any good. Indoor-air-pollutants come in two primary forms: particle pollution, such as dust, pollen, animal dander and smoke, and gaseous pollutants such as VOCs ( Volatile Organic Compounds ) that are emitted from sources such as building materials, dry-cleaned clothing and aerosol sprays. You are constantly breathing in common toxins. Houseplants, especially a beautiful potted Kentia Palm, clean the air, researchers say, primarily by absorbing pollution through small leaf pores called stomata, and via microorganisms living in potting soil or medium that metabolize contaminants. Scientists believe plants can begin removing pollution the moment they are placed in a room and can be particularly useful in spaces where there is little ventilation. So if you don’t have an indoor plant or a potted Kentia Palm go get one. Give them some water regularly, a nice little shower occasionally to dust them off, and maybe some granule fertilizer too, and more importantly keep interacting with them. Elegant Kentias has the perfect potted Kentia Palms for any Arizona residence. Check out our website at www.elegantkentias.com
The Aalsmeer flower and plant auction in North Holland near Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport is by far the busiest floral and plant market in the world. Daily, around 20 million flowers and plants are traded at the facility. Inside, the building is a hive of activity. Endless numbers of small trains full of carts loaded with containers of flowers and plants ( Kentia Palms included ) are moved by electric-powered trucks or automated rails. It looks all chaotic with a highway system, and clearly a highway code to go with it, allowing the various wagons to be moved to where the schedules demand. Flowers, plants and Kentia Palms arrive the previous night by 10pm. They are cooled and sorted during the night in preparation for auction.
The flower and plant auction functions are as follows: The buyers sit in an almost college classroom fashion on one side of the hall – computers plugged in. In front of the hall, the flowers and plants including Kentia Palms are pulled through on automated trains – two trains go by if two auctions are being held at the same time. Huge screens in each half of the hall display the auction information – the clock determines the price. The auctioneer sits behind a glass screen – traditionally he drops the ball in each clock but nowadays most of it goes automatically. The buyers bid electronically as the flowers, plants and Kentia Palms move by. Once sold, the most impressive part of the logistics springs into action. Wagons and containers are sorted and sent to the correct loading bay, so each buyer receives his wares and can arrange to have it sent it to his distribution centers, or maybe to Schiphol Airport for export to other European countries. Payment for purchases must be made on the same day as the purchase. No credit!
The flower and plant auction in Aalsmeer follows the Dutch auction system – the price is set high and then drops until someone buys. If demand exceeds supply, those waiting too long for the price to drop may go home empty handed. Similarly, anyone buying too fast overpays, but is at least assured of receiving the product. The bidding process can be seen on the large screens inside the auction room. The key element is the round circle – often referred to as the clock. A start price is set and the auctioneer drops the ball that moves down with the price dropping at the same pace – the numbers on the ring is percentage not currency. The ball stops as soon as the buyer is willing to pay the given price. If the buyer does not take all the flowers or plants on offer, the price continues to drop until further buyers are found. Other information on the board includes the name of the seller, details of the flowers and plants on offer as well of the reliability of the seller’s quality indexing.
It is a fascinating process and all the flower and plant material available for sale is of an excellent quality. This auction system is the main selling area for beautiful potted Kentia Palms which once sold are delivered to many garden centers, retail outlets and chain stores all over Europe.
Kentia Palms look very elegant in all shapes and sizes of decorative pots. These Kentia Palms are displayed in some upscale hotels in Europe. As you can see the Kentias all have a tall upright stance, and are therefore cultivated and grown indoors in climate controlled European greenhouses.
The Kentia Palm could be found in many establishments in England during the Victorian Era and the early 1900’s. It was undoubtedly the most sought after plant for display indoors. If you shopped at Harrods in the 1920’s you would have seen small potted Kentia Palms on sale. That’s how popular they were!
I like researching articles about Kentia Palms, and found this very interesting article from the Irish Times newspaper about Sam Smyth, owner of Urban Plant Life on Cork Street in Dublin. Sam’s article singles out the handsome upright Kentia Palm as one of his favorite go-to indoor plants. He goes on to say that it isn’t easy being a house plant. Too often, it’s expected to have the endurance skills of a French Foreign legionnaire along with a supernatural ability to tolerate extreme swings of temperature, famine, and under and over watering. And yet, when chosen with care and treated with just a little TLC these plants, especially the Kentia Palm, have the ability to transform our homes and offices in a world where many people now spend 90 percent of their time indoors. Health aside, house plants make us happier by greening and personalizing our homes and work places, something that Sam Smyth can also vouch for. “During the economic crash, some employers cut back on office plants as a way of reducing overheads. What stuck us when it came to removing the plants from the offices how sad many of the employees were to see them going.” He goes onto say have you ever heard, for example, of the phrase “personal breathing zone”? Its something akin to your personal body space, an area of roughly 6-8 cubic feet surrounding any individual. Place the right house plants within or close to that zone and, studies by NASA show, they make us healthier by growing fresh air, adding humidity, and filtering toxic gases, volatile chemicals, and other pollutants from the atmosphere – all important considerations in modern, often hermetically -sealed buildings. So if you haven’t any plants in your home, or are not surrounded by some in your work place now is the time to get some! They are the perfect solution to creating a happy environment!
Sam Smyth and his Kentias. A Happy workplace with Kentias!